Black Performance Theory 2007



 Participant List and Bios

Friday, May 18

8:30 - 9:00 Breakfast and Welcome
9:00 - 9:30 Opening Remarks

9:30 - 10:15 Dialogue 1 How Quare is Noah's Arc? Catanese/McCune

10:30 - 11:15 Dialogue 2 In the Break DeFrantz/Olomo
11:15 - 12:00 Dialogue 3 Getting Mother's Body Braggs/Diggs

12:15 - 1:00 Dialogue 4 Globalization and Race Castor/Livermon

1:00 - 2:30 LUNCH

3:00 - 3:45 Dialogue 5 Bodies in Dissent Nyong’o/Mitchell
3:45 - 4:30 Dialogue 6 Losing My Mother Young
4:30 - 5:00 Witnesses Response

7:00 Dinner with WORKS IN PROGRESS (2 minute sessions)


Saturday, May 19

9:00 - 9:30 Breakfast

9:30 - 10:15 Dialogue 7 The Fabulous Sylvester Johnson/King
10:15 - 11:00 Dialogue 8 Cultural Formations of Urban Dance in RIZE Bailey/Batiste

11:15 - 12:00 Dialogue 9 Dreamgirls Roberts/Witherspoon
12:00 - 12:45 Dialogue 10 "On Representing Others: Intellectuals, Pedagogy, and the Uses of Error" Bean/George


2:00 - 2:45 Dialogue 11 Queering the Absent Potential in August Wilson and Jessye Norman Booker/Reese
2:45 - 3:30 Dialogue 12 Volatile Bodies Blanco/Green/Scott
3:30 - 4:00 Witnesses Response






 Black Diamond: The Years the Locusts Have Eaten
Lookingglass Theatre in the Water Tower Water Works
821 N. Michigan Ave.
A streetwise teenage girl turns into an armed rebel leader after being gang-raped by militant political mercenaries in a West African mining country.
Read Chris Jones' Chicago Tribune review.
Through May. 20. Saturdays : 8 p.m. Price: $20-$50
Box office: 312-337-0665
Produced by: Lookingglass Theatre Company
Josephine Louis Theatre, Northwestern University
20 Arts Circle Drive, Evanston,IL
A 1920s romantic comedy by Philip Barry ("The Philadelphia Story") about a young man who plans to marry a wealthy socialite in order to avoid working, which upsets her father and fascinates her sister.
Through May. 20. Saturdays : 8 p.m. Price: $10-$25
Box office: 847-491-7282
Produced by: Northwestern University's Theatre and Interpretation Center
Memphis Soul (The Story of Stax Records)
Black Ensemble Theater
4520 N. Beacon St.
Jackie Taylor directs David Barr's new musical about the work of Johnny Taylor, the Staple Singers, Rufus Thomas and other soul artists.
Read Chris Jones' Chicago Tribune review.
Saturdays : 8 p.m. Price: $35-$40
Ticketmaster: 312-902-1500
Box office: 773-769-4451
Produced by: Black Ensemble Theater
Victory Gardens Greenhouse
2257 N. Lincoln Ave.
A '50s WAC pilot, running from a dalliance with a general's daughter, heads to Chicago for adventures at a sultry ladies' jazz club in this campy, Jeff Award-winning homage to lesbian pulp fiction.
Saturdays: 9 p.m.  Price: $20-$40
Box office: 773-871-3000
Produced by: About Face Theatre
Theatre Building Chicago
1225 W. Belmont Ave.
Set in Harlem in the early 20th Century, this musical adaptation of E.L. Doctorow's novel of the same title portrays the struggles and triumphs of three Americans in the age of immigration, vaudeville and jazz.
Read Chris Jones' Chicago Tribune review.
Saturdays: 7:45 p.m   Price: $13.50-$35
Box office: 773-327-5252
Produced by: Porchlight Music Theatre
The Color Purple
Cadillac Palace Theatre
151 W. Randolph St.
Read Chris Jones' preview.
The Broadway adaptation of Alice Walker's Pulitzer Prize-winning musical drama kicks off a national tour in Chicago. Felicia Fields recreates her Tony-nominated role as Sofia, Jeannette Bayardelle reprises her Broadway role as Celie, and former Destiny's Child singer Michelle Williams and "American Idol" contestant LaToya London co-star as Shug Avery and Nettie.
Price: $25.50-$122.50
Box office: 312-902-1400
Produced by: Broadway in Chicago and Oprah Winfrey
Phone: 312-977-1700
Northwestern University School of Music Jazz Fest
Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, Northwestern University
50 Arts Circle Drive, Evanston,IL
Jim McNeely, Northwestern University Jazz Ensemble and Jazz Band.
Saturday: 7:30 p.m.   Price: $7-$10  Box office: 847-467-4000

Sunday, May 20


About Dialogue Sessions: For 20 minutes, Two discussants who have been in conversation over the past month or so share their observations or riff on ideas that the material they have chosen inspires. The working group listens. For 10 minutes, the working group members offer responses to the discussion. During that time, the two discussants listen. For 5 minutes, the discussants respond to the group. Although it may sound strict, this method, developed by Anna Scott, allows for a juicy call and response among participants.

Information about BPT:

Begun in 1998 by Richard Green at Duke University, and convened since then by Thomas DeFrantz (MIT) working with a shifting roster of conveners from the group, the hosts for this year’s working group and conference are E. Patrick Johnson, Jennifer Brody and Harvey Young at Northwestern University. The theme for the gathering is “Theory in Motion.” We thought that the theme opens up all kinds of possibilities for discussion and performance. As in years past, the goals of this year’s event are to:

1) stimulate discussion and reflection
2) inspire action across disciplines/institutions
3) create environments for art/scholarship that nurtures growth

Given the success of last year’s format, we propose the same one for this year. That is, we ask you to pair yourself up with someone else attending the event whom you don't know very well, or whose work you don't know well. Working together by email, choose a text to explore--something that inspires you in the realm of black performance theory in motion. Break the issues in the text down together. Hash it out. What does the text do or not do, how is it great or useless, that sort of thing. At the BPT, you'll have a 20-minute block of time to point/counterpoint the text in front of the group. We'll have a ten-minute block for response/questions/further provocations from the group.

To move toward the second goal, we'll have a shared resources session - possibly over a meal - to talk about the shape of institutional support these days, and consider what our institutions can do/have done to promote possibilities for the field. Several of us have been able to produce BPT among other kinds of performance events; how can we brainstorm other events/ways to work together/move forward for the field? In today's increasingly hostile climate, we probably need to be more aggressive in how we strategize to support junior faculty and encourage promising students to pursue performance theory.

To move toward the third aspiration, we'll continue to have the "work in progress" sessions, where you get to talk about your current research/performance projects. Your time to talk will be embarrassingly short, but will hopefully allow you to air your project among kindred spirits, and get some feedback and inspiration over meals or in breakout conversations during the two-day event. We'll also attempt a 2-minute "dream projects" session, in which folks can riff on research projects they wish *someone* would pursue, maybe someone else. This will be an opportunity to circulate ideas that deserve/warrant attention. It seems we all come up with these projects that we'll never get to, so here's a chance to let those ideas out into the world. After all, they might be useful to someone else's grad student at some point.

Because of the wealth of graduate students in performance studies and theater at Northwestern, we’re setting aside a special “graduate student only” session to allow students to collaborate, network and share without the “surveillance” of faculty. The NU graduate students will host this session. During that time, the faculty BPT participants can also gather to discuss issues or to have some down time.

As usual, we’ll also have time for performances, readings, dance, and improv.

LOGISTICS of all this - please take a look at the list of participants at
and find someone to work with. After you've agreed, please let us know immediately at, so we can update the site and let others know via the website (the main website is When you and your partner have settled on a text - it might be a book, a journal article, a script, a performance - please let us know that too, so we can plan the schedule of events with some flow over the two and a half days.

The sponsors of BPT 2007 are the Northwestern Department of Performance Studies, Alice Berline Kaplan Humanities Institute Mellon Grant, Music and Theater Arts Department of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and SLIPPAGE|Performance, Culture, Technology in residence @ MIT.

Looking forward to this meeting with great anticipation.