Breathing Fire in Washington DC for Black History Month 2018

Written by Akulah Agbami, Ruth Pitter and other members of the group.

February is the warmest month in Washington. Warm in terms of the moving waves of stories and we found ourselves embraced by warmth in terms of the welcome that surrounded us.

This was a reciprocal visit after Washington based Playback Theatre Company Hissing Black Cat visited and joined us for our Black History Month tour in October 2016 where we undertook a successful series of performances around the UK. Hissing Black Cat were keen to offer the opportunity to host us and work with us in the US in return.

We appreciate being able to share our creativity as far and as wide as possible and feel honoured to receive so much from a diverse range of audiences in return.

We performed, carried out workshops and undertook training with our hosts. We learned so many things. Firstly, the more we tour, the easier it becomes to tour. Our organisational skills improve and we take things in our stride more easily. We expected to be somewhat overwhelmed by a US tour -but it was very straightforward and really, really enjoyable. Audiences were extremely appreciative of our performances and the fact that we had travelled so far to be with them – so definitely a lot to be said for broadening one’s horizons.

One of the highlights of our trip was performing for the Women Playwrights Group who were so welcoming and also informed – so their feedback was particularly valuable. We worked with a US playback director – who has a different approach to our style of theatre and that was a gift in itself.  They also made us a cake!

One of our most memorable performances was in the Francis Gregory Library at which an agoraphobic young man spoke about how difficult it had been for him to make his way to the performance. It was so painful for him to share his experience but it was one of those moments when the audience unites and emits warmth and solidarity and we were able to deftly honour his story.

February is the warmest month in Washington and that’s something to do with being a black women’s playback company, performing with another black women’s company, for black audiences in black history month. We were in our element.

Our intentional tentacles continue to spread further as we will soon head off to the Caribbean to work with communities in Martinique.

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