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To Feel A Thing: A Ritual for Emergence

adrienne maree brown, Troy Anthony, The Fire Ensemble, Charlotte Brathwaite

Let deep feelings of connection and zest for life reign free during a ritual for spiritual emergence with uplifting gospel music and the inspiring, heartening songs of adrienne maree brown - one of associate artist ANOHNI’s favourite writers and thinkers.


The extraordinary ritual To Feel A Thing: A Ritual for Emergence was originally workshopped by The Fire Ensemble, an American choir community. This project of author and songwriter adrienne maree brown, in collaboration with composer and choir leader Troy Anthony and director Charlotte Brathwaite, is now coming to the Netherlands to be performed again with local participants, Queer Choir Amsterdam, ahead of its world premiere at The Repertory Theater of St. Louis and Oregon Shakespeare Festival.


Featuring original music and text from brown, this work, rooted in gospel music, acknowledges the spirit inside each of us that is a wild creature of Earth, along with the feelings that lead us to adapt for survival and to come together to care for ourselves and our communities. Together with brown, and accompanied by a gospel band, The Fire Ensemble along with local participants will breathe new life into the piece. Audiences can expect to play an active role. Lose yourself in the crowd and sing along if you want to!


adrienne maree brown:

‘This is a time when art needs to enliven and connect people to themselves and their capacity to shape the future through their own choices. To Feel A Thing: A Ritual for Emergence is a musical ritual rooted in emergent strategy, the sound and spirit of gospel, and creating more possibilities for our species by awakening our capacity to feel what is, and feel each other.


Associate artist ANOHNI on adrienne maree brown: 

‘She may have the clearest voice in the United States when it comes to articulating methods and processes that can be used by people in social justice movements.’


PROGRAMME BOOK

dates

Sun June 18 2023 8:30 PM

Prices

  • default including drink from € 23
  • CJP/student/scholar € 12

language & duration

  • English

  • 1 hour 30 minutes (zonder pauze)

‘The universe keeps sending me songs’

Interview with adrienne maree brown

Adrienne maree brown is one of associate artist ANOHNI’s favorite writers and thinkers. In collaboration with composer and choir leader Troy Anthony and director Charlotte Brathwaite she will present the extraordinary ritual, rooted in gospel music: To Feel A Thing: A Ritual for Emergence.This project will be customized especially for the Dutch audience, with local participants. A conversation about her work and what drives her.‘The universe keeps sending me songs’


By Evelien Lindeboom

‘The universe keeps sending me songs’

Interview with adrienne maree brown

Adrienne maree brown is one of associate artist ANOHNI’s favorite writers and thinkers. In collaboration with composer and choir leader Troy Anthony and director Charlotte Brathwaite she will present the extraordinary ritual, rooted in gospel music: To Feel A Thing: A Ritual for Emergence.This project will be customized especially for the Dutch audience, with local participants. A conversation about her work and what drives her.‘The universe keeps sending me songs’


By Evelien Lindeboom

Let’s start with a basic question: your book and podcast are called Emergent Strategy, and the project you bring to the Holland Festival is called To Feel A Thing, A Ritual for Emergence. The word emergence is clearly important. It is quite an abstract term, can you explain what you mean by it?


‘It’s about how our world works. The definition that I use comes from the writer Nick Obolensky: “Emergence is the way complex systems and patterns arise out of a multiplicity of relatively simple interactions” - this can refer to both good and negative patterns. What I focus on is: how can we understand how change works, so that we can organize ourselves better? So that we can cause more justice, love and equity, and a healthy relationship with the earth?’


When you say ‘we can organize ourselves better’ who do you mean?


‘I often write for people who are trying to create positive change in the world through organizing social justice movements. Emergent Stategy is about embracing the complexity that a five-year plan could never predict. And at the same time it’s about embracing our capacity to create the right conditions through small interactions. My favorite writer, Octavia Butler, talks about shaping change: if we work together, we can shape the right conditions for positive things to happen.


This is not just useful for organizers. I want to make everyone feel that they are responsible and there is something they can do to contribute to the state of the world. Everybody’s choices are supporting a world view, whether they are aware of that, or not. So when people say they don’t get involved in politics, they are supporting the status quo, and that is an action in itself – because that’s how wars and genocides happen. I am also reaching out to those people who are passive, because I think a lot of them have a contribution to the future in them, whether that comes from organizing, or singing, or from their parenting style or the way they care for others. They can show up for those roles. I want to awaken people into their own wholeness.’


What inspired you to make this ritual?


‘It started with songs. I’ve been writing books, but the universe keeps sending me songs! The lyrics and the melody will generally come to me all at once, and I record them in my phone. There are thousands of songs in my phone. When I told this to a friend, she connected me to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. They wanted to commission a piece with my songs, and so they connected me with Troy Anthony, who knows how to build these choir communities. This is the first time I work with a choir and that’s so rewarding. When these songs came to me, I could already hear those three hundred voices surrounding me, so it feels as if my dreams are coming back to me in real life.’


What are the lyrics about?


‘They are very personal, but we made sure they are also very open and relatable. I write about things we all experience: about overwhelm, about having an impact in the world, about beliefs changing over time, about heartbreak and grief. It has been very beautiful and intense and healing for me to hear so many people sing my deepest emotions with me.’


What makes singing together so special?


‘There is something about what can happen in an audience singing together, that is unlike any other changing experience I know. Choirs have saved many lives. There is a skill to being in a choir: you are part of something bigger so you have to bring your part, and you have to balance it with everyone else. In doing so, we are awakening as a collective to a new place.’


It may not feel natural to everybody, here in Amsterdam many people may be unfamiliar with singing in this way.

‘Bringing this to Amsterdam is a cultural experiment. It’s not just choir, it is gospel choir, that has a particular lineage. Amsterdam is culturally more organized and ordered, we are inviting people to let more feelings flow in a collective space. You don’t have to be a great singer, just come with curiosity, be present and feel what is happening in the room.


It’s important to me that people experience pleasure and joy. I hope people don’t think they have to act like Americans, or pretend to be something they are not. Being more quiet can still be profound and also from stillness profound shifts can happen. I feel confident that we will make something that’s transcendent. The key questions are: how do we feel more together? And: how do we feel more together?’


It’s interesting that you make a different version of To Feel A Thing per location, because in the Netherlands the United States are often looked at as an example when it comes to social justice movements, and at the same time there is the question: how is the social situation here comparable to there?


‘The United States is rooted in a culture of enslavement, that would not have been possible without the Dutch. For me, there is a dance between us: these things happened on our land, in ways that resourced yours. I say: ok, beautiful, this is ours to hold together. What does it mean for us, descendants of enslaved people, to come here and create a modern-day healing space for both local descendants of enslaved people and those who descended from co-creators and practitioners of slavery - or people who have at least benefited from these conditions? Our piece isn't directly about that, but that's the lineage flowing into the room where we will be generating something new together.


I always work according to the principle: there is a conversation in this room, that only these people, at this time could have. I feel this is a particular moment in the history of the Netherlands. We are very aware that the Dutch are entering a year of looking at slavery that your nation was a part of. How could that feel? Can we be together with hard feelings such as shame and guilt? Being accountable also allows us to grow more authentic cross-cultural relationships. We are very excited to create this multiracial and multicultural healing space for the people that want that.

To be part of this year with ANOHNI as the associate artist means a lot: she blows my mind and I trust her vision, so this feels like a big honor, and I want it to be of deep service to the local people.’


What would you like people to take from the experience?


‘We work with local people recruiting choir singers and training the music far in advance, so what happens on the 18th will be like a gathering of people that have been building a community for months. The audience is invited to sing and move with that community. There will be surprises that we can’t predict, we just create the conditions. In New York for example, we ended up with a lot of kids in the middle of the room, they became the heart of the ritual.


I hope that people will continue to sing together. And that they will find ways to organize emergent strategies. Ask yourselves: what does transformative justice look like in this context? Especially because there is this looking back at slavery; instead of the question how to be punitive, can we be generative? We need to generate more possibilities, not just by saying the words slavery and accountability, but by truly changing the relationships.’

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  • <p>Adrienne Maree Brown, writer and activist</p>

    © Anjali Pinto

  • © Ahad Subzwari

  • © Ahad Subzwari

credits

concept adrienne maree brown co-creation Troy Anthony, Charlotte Brathwaite musical direction Troy Anthony direction Charlotte Brathwaite production The Fire Ensemble, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis artistic direction Troy Anthony commissioned by Oregon Shakespeare Festival, The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis developed in part by The Shed artistic collaboration Lilith Agency choir Queer Choir Amsterdam vocals Chy-Kyria, Robin Louis Wong, Alisa Tuasuun

This performance is made possible by