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22/23 SEASON | TARGETED | JUNE 2-4, 2023

Cornish Playhouse, Seattle, WA

THE CONCLUSION TO THE INSIDIOUS TRILOGY

TARGETED

June 2-4, 2023

Cornish Playhouse | 201 Mercer St, Seattle, WA 98109
Concept, Choreography, and Direction by Donald Byrd

 

On May 14, 2022, in Buffalo, New York, an 18-year-old, self-described white supremacist entered a supermarket, killing ten Black people and injuring three. The shooter was reported to have written a manifesto describing himself as an ethno-nationalist motivated to carry out political violence, voicing his support for the far-right ” The Great Replacement Theory.” 

Targeted is a Dance-Theater piece that journeys into the mind of the shooter moments before committing this horrific act of racial violence. The title refers to the systematic targeting of Black and non-white immigrant people by white supremacists for murder. 

Targeted completes the “Insidious Trilogy” that began in 2019 with Strange Fruit and Grief in 2022. The Trilogy wonders at Jim Crow, its history, legacy, transformation, and contemporary manifestations. 

As the culmination of the 40/20 Anniversary, Artistic Director Donald Byrd has assembled a unique cast of six dancers comprised of current Company members, former Company, and former significant guest artists; featuring actors Arlando Smith and R Hamilton Wright and drummer Davee C Carpenter.

CONTENT WARNING: This piece contains anti-Black and anti-immigrant rhetoric, references to racial and gun violence, and themes of racism, white supremacy, and xenophobia. 

Why You Should See TARGETED (DO NOT SING THIS SONG!)

TARGETED is a work that asks us to sit, listen, and hear the language, the song of white supremacy, the language of a racist murderer. This is difficult and painful. It is difficult for those of us who are the targets of this language, those who find racism abhorrent, and those who believe all human beings are inherently equal.

Then why listen? … Because this is the song that is being sung in the United States with increased frequency and amplification. We the ‘good’ people must learn to recognize it. Recognize its various iterations, modulations, and variations, whether loud, soft, or whispered. Our ears must be tuned and sensitive to this hateful song and the choirs that sing it.

Think of TARGETED as a practice session in learning to recognize the song, NOT to join in the singing. But rather to identify it regardless of its changes in pitch, key, speed, tonality.

TARGETED is also a way for us to notice if we are subvocalizing the song, if we have internalized this repugnant melody, silently singing along. It is an opportunity to check ourselves. It is an insidious tune.

TARGETED at times might be unbearable. But it reminds us of what’s at stake. If this is not the country, the world we want, then we need to change our tune. 

–Donald Byrd

*Venue Policy, Masks Required*

INTERVIEW WITH DONALD BYRD

Hear from the Choreographer and Director of TARGETED discuss the intention behind the final piece to the Insidious Trilogy.

Interview conducted by Vivian Phillips.

Filmed and edited by Luke Wigren

WITNESS HOW IT ALL STARTED!

Watch the 2022 Performance of Strange Fruit produced by PEAK Performances with the Purchase of an Adult General Admission Ticket to TARGETED

Through May 31st, 2023, get automatically sent a link to watch the full production of Strange Fruit filmed by PEAK Performances, 2022. 

 

Hear More About Strange Fruit
from Choreographer and Director, Donald Byrd
LEARN MORE: Strange Fruit, 2019

Strange Fruit draws its title from the 1937 poem and song of the same name by Abel Meeropol and made famous by the great jazz singer Billie Holiday. The song makes the metaphor of the swinging body of the lynching victim and fruit hanging from a tree. The song is not used in the piece.

The impetus for this world premiere work is lynching and its usage as a tool of racial terrorism during the Jim Crow Era.

Lynching emerged as a vicious and horrific tool of racial control in the South after Reconstruction as a way to reestablish white supremacy and suppress black civil rights. While there were more than 4,075 documented racial terror lynchings of African Americans in Southern States between 1877 and 1950, most white Americans and young African Americans have very little to no knowledge of this brutal campaign of racial violence. For this dance/theater work, the facts of lynching act as a springboard into an interior space, a state of mind. Strange Fruit tracks my feelings as a response to these acts of terror and plays out as a series of dance/theater vignettes. The piece is abstract, but informed by the reality of these brutal acts of violence and terrorism.  

 

Donald Byrd, April 2019

LEARN MORE: Grief, 2022

Thoughts on GRIEF

I’m fascinated by Mamie Till – Mobley, the mother of Emmett Till. Particularly, her decision to have an open casket funeral after the horrific murder of her son. She said at the time, “I want the world to see what they did to my boy”. She wanted the world to see the brutality and cruelty, the dehumanization, the desecration of his body.

I wonder at what was behind those words, what was going on in her mind that led her to make her decision. Perhaps it was anger and the outrage she felt at the murder. But it also might have been a way of sharing her grief, her overwhelming pain and sense of loss. She might have thought that if people saw Emmett’s body, then it would not be just her grief to bear alone.  If others could feel some small part of what it was that she was feeling, to share what she’d witnessed, it might lessen the burden, the pain – if only a little bit. 

Of course, I can only speculate why she made the choice she did. However, I do think the decision was mostly driven by outrage. I think wanting the world to know was a noble way of framing it, but I believe that it was the personal outrage that drove the decision. Her need to enhance, to amplify her pain so that it was large enough that others might feel what she was feeling. Through a kind of empathetic communion, she might be relieved of some of her suffering. 

The process of creating this work caused me to think a lot about mothers and some of the things that we hear about a mother’s love. How the worst thing for a mother (or parent) is to lose their child. A child dying before a parent is almost unbearable. It also reminds me, and I know this may be a little sacrilegious, of Mary, the mother of Jesus and the loss of her Son. I think of the images and iconography that came out of the Catholic Church during the Renaissance that depict the Madonna and Child (sweet and peaceful), Mary holding the dead body of Jesus across her lap (grave and numb in her loss). The contrast of those two images, the power of the Pieta, this production wants to live in that world of things.

Maybe the reason those images, those religious images, hold such power is because we all on some level understand the pain of a mother losing her child. We empathize with the feelings of that situation. It makes God, as manifested in Jesus, more understandable, more human, He dies just as we do. We feel compassion for Mary in her loss and by extension for God. As Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel postulates, “God learns from us”. As a result, the vengeful God of the Old Testament is transformed into the compassionate God of the New Testament. And we too are expected to become compassionate.

The murder of Emmett Till and the crucifixion of Jesus were both brutal acts. We know from religious texts that Mary witnessed the crucifixion, she was there. She watched, she saw, the brutalization and suffering of her son. Not just the crucifixion itself but she also saw the crowning with thorns, carrying of the cross, the Roman soldier piercing His side with a lance, His being given vinegar to drink. Seeing Emmet’s mutilated body, Mamie Till-Mobley imagines his suffering just as Mary witness the suffering of Jesus. Till-Mobley wants us to see her son’s body then imagine his suffering just as she must has done when she first saw it. It is because of what she imagines, not just his death, I think, that makes her pain unbearable, what outrages her. She wants us to see through her eyes and feel through her nerves the dehumanization of her son, how he was diminished and disregarded.

Despair, anger, and rage are feelings that probably accompany the murder and slaughter of one’s child whether it is Mary, Mother of Jesus, or Mamie Till-Mobley. I suspect those feelings are ones that we all might have when we grieve.

Donald Byrd May 2022

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