I create, perform, coordinate and theorize about performances that comment on social issues, especially those connected to race, gender, sexuality, and class. My main influences are theatre artists in Africa and the African Diaspora who dedicate their careers to developing innovative techniques while learning from rich theatrical traditions found across the globe. I am in the early stages of developing a career in playwriting that draws on two decades of experience in theatre as well as the transnational networks I continue to form with a diverse set of theatre/performance artists.
AFIBA AND HER DAUGHTERS – A Play in Two Acts
Rites and Reason Theatre, Providence RI, May 25 to 28, 2016. World Premiere.
Afiba and Her Daughters is my first full length play. It had its beginnings as a treatment for a screenplay that I submitted as part of my application to the MA Program in Scriptwriting at Goldsmith College, University of London in 2009. I was accepted by the Program, but could not pursue it because of financial reasons. However, four years later in 2013, I began developing the story into a play in Elmo Terry Morgan’s Research to Performance Method Playwriting Class at Brown University. Afiba and Her Daughters is an intergenerational play that represents how the women in a Jamaican family negotiate racial, gender and class oppression in the country. Afiba is an enslaved woman who suffers dearly after performing a single act of liberation in 1818. The protagonist, Dana Carnegie, Afiba’s descendant, belongs to the group of feminist intellectuals that came to voice in the 1970s in Jamaica. She serves as the playwright’s surrogate as she writes and tries to publish her family’s story with Afiba at the centre. From slavery to colonialism, to the early post-colonial era, to Jamaica’s experiment with democratic socialism in the 1970s, the play offers snapshots as well as details about the context in which these women try to live fulfilling lives. Rites and Reason Theatre produced the play under the direction of John Emigh, Professor Emeritus of Theatre and Performance Studies, Brown University. It opened on African Liberation Day, May 25, 2016 and had a successful four-day run that closed on May 28, 2016. Afiba and Her Daughters features original songs, and original music by the playwright and Providence-based, musician, Lon E. Plynton.
Photos: Top left to bottom right: Angela Nash Wade (Amy Spencer) and Becky Bass (Miss Watson), Shenyse Leanna Harris (Afiba/Christine Carnegie), Sylvia Ann-Soares (Besi) and Cleveish Bogle (Cubah), Angela Lynsey Ford (Dana Carnegie) and Ezekiel Olukoya (Jonathon Griffiths) in scenes from Afiba and Her Daughters. Photos by Nicosia Shakes.
PREMIERE RUN: May 25 to 28, 2016, Rites and Reason Theatre, 155 Angell Street, Providence RI 02912. PRODUCTION TEAM/CAST (Abridged): Director: John Emigh, Producer: Karen Allen Baxter, Dramaturg: Elmo Terry Morgan, Production Assistant: Kathy Moyer, Technical Director: Alonzo T. Jones, Musical Director: Lon E. Plynton, Costume Design: Lisa Batt-Parente. Actors: Becky Bass, Cleveish Bogle, Angela Lynsey Ford, Viraj Gandhi, Warren Harding, Shenyse Harris, Angela Nash, Ezekiel Olukoya, Tom Paolino, Sylvia-Ann Soares. BAND: The Mystic Jammers.
Watch a video clip here
TWO STORIES – A Play in One Act
Tallawah Drama Festival, November 1999.
Two Stories, a one-act play with three characters is about a conversation that accidentally happens between two women connected to the same man. One is married to the man, the other is engaged in an illicit relationship with him. In a series of flashbacks the women talk about their experiences, from the beginning of each relationship to the problems that eventually result. It was written as an entry to the Tallawah Drama Festival, a national theatre festival held at the Phillip Sherlock Centre for the Creative Arts, University of the West Indies, Mona. The play received the awards for Best New Script and Best Actress.
PREMIERE PERFORMANCE: November 18, 1999, Phillip Sherlock Centre for the Creative Arts, University of the West Indies, Mona, Kingston, Jamaica. PRODUCTION TEAM/CAST: Producer, Director and Costume and Set Designer: Nicosia Shakes, Actors: Tonni-Ann Brodber, Shelly-Ann Wittock and Shaun Thomas. AWARDS: Best New Script, Best Actress (Tonni-Ann Brodber), High Commendation in Directing (Nicosia Shakes).
LOST SON – A Play in One Act
Tallawah Drama Festival, November 1999.
The late 1990s was an unfortunate turning point in Jamaica’s history of gang-related violence. Murders were at a record high and many Jamaicans, including myself, felt that the tone of the violence was becoming more and more indiscriminate. People who may have previously been considered “off limits” as possible victims, including babies and women, were being targeted mostly for retaliation. Lost Son tells the tragic story of a young couple from one of Jamaica’s volatile inner-city communities, who become enmeshed in the violence. The main protagonists are Stacey, a newly pregnant young woman, Tony her partner and Paula, Stacey’s inquisitive and supportive friend. It was as an entry to the Tallawah Drama Festival. I received High Commendation for directing it.
PREMIERE PERFORMANCE: November 19, 1999, Tallawah Drama Festival, PSCCA. PRODUCTION TEAM/CAST: Producer and Costume and Set Designer: Nicosia Shakes, Director: Andrea Grant. Actors: Nicosia Shakes, Martin Thame and Dionne Thompson.
BLACK PEARL – A Performance Poem
Tallawah Drama Festival 2000.
Part dub, and part pentametric, this poem is a meditation on anti-Black racism and Diasporic Africans’ connection to the continent.
PREMIERE PERFORMANCE: November 19, 2000, Tallawah Drama Festival, PSCCA. PERFORMER: Clive Forrester. AWARD: Best Poem.
SONG FOR THE BELOVED: MEMORY AND RENEWAL AT THE MARGINS OF JUSTICE
An Interactive Exhibition and Performance by The Memory, Urban Violence and Performance Project, The Garvey Great Hall, Liberty Hall: The Legacy of Marcus Garvey, Kingston, Jamaica, May 2015.
Song for the Beloved: Memory and Renewal at the Margins of Justice was an interactive exhibition and performance mounted in Kingston, Jamaica in 2015. It was one in the series of performances from the Memory, Urban Violence and Performance Project, initiated by Honor Ford-Smith who is also Principal Researcher. Ford-Smith is a Jamaican scholar, actor, playwright and former Artistic Director of Sistren Theatre Collective. She teaches in the Faculty of Environmental Studies at York University. The Project began in 2007 as a Jamaican-centered transnational exploration of the ways in which people who reside in volatile urban communities remember and forget the lives lost as a result of violence. It blends visual arts, public performances, theatre, multimedia and art installations/exhibitions, and has been enacted in Kingston, Jamaica; Toronto, Canada; Bogotá, Colombia; New York and New Jersey, United States. The exhibition/performance consisted of memorial tables influenced by Jamaican Revival, images of Jamaican persons who died violently, and a multimedia slide show of memorial street art in urban Jamaica. The exhibition opened with a staged reading of the monodrama, A Vigil for Roxie, co-created based on ethnographic research, by Honor Ford-Smith, Amba Chevannes, Carol Lawes, the actor and Eugene Williams, the director. This exhibition/performance was dedicated to the lives lost during the 2010 West Kingston Incursion in which seventy people were killed (49 unarmed), mainly by the Jamaican police and army. May 25, 2015 was the fifth anniversary of the incursion. The exhibition was curated by Honor Ford-Smith and Anique Jordan and designed by Honor Ford-Smith, Anique Jordan and Kara Springer.
Photos, top left to bottom right: the audience, two sections of the interactive exhibition and Carol Lawes reading A Vigil for Roxie. Photos by Nicosia Shakes.
PRODUCTION RUN: May 25 to 28, 2015. PRODUCTION TEAM: Principal Researcher – Honor Ford-Smith, Curators – Honor Ford-Smith and Anique Jordan, Exhibition Design – Honor Ford-Smith, Anique Jordan, Kara Springer. CREATORS OF A Vigil for Roxie: Amba Chevannes, Carol Lawes, Honor Ford-Smith, Eugene Williams; Actor: Carol Lawes; Director: Eugene Williams.
A READING OF SLAVE NARRATIVES FROM THE CARIBBEAN AND THE UNITED STATES
Performed at SANKOFA: A Symposium on Slavery and its Impact on Contemporary Jamaica, organized by Liberty Hall: The Legacy of Marcus Garvey at The Institute of Jamaica auditorium, 12 East Street, Kingston, Jamaica. February, 2004.
SANKOFA: Slavery and its Impact on Contemporary Jamaica was the first in an annual symposium that I organized while working as Research Officer at Liberty Hall: The Legacy of Marcus Garvey, a cultural and educational institution dedicated to Marcus Garvey, the important Jamaican Pan-African philosopher and leader. As part of the symposium, I collated and directed a performance of five slave narratives from Jamaica, Bermuda, Cuba and The United States. The narratives were woven throughout the symposium and performed at different points in the program with the readers/ actors approaching from various sections of the auditorium. I directed the narratives as well as performed an excerpt from The History of Mary Prince, a woman enslaved in Bermuda during the early 19th century.
Photos, left to right: Jasmine Everett reading the narrative of Akeiso [sic] enslaved in Jamaica, 1700s, Abbebe Payne reading the narrative of James Fisher, U.S.A. 1800s and Nicosia Shakes reading the History of Mary Prince, enslaved in Bermuda in the 1700s to 1800s. Photo Copyright Liberty Hall, 2004.
PRODUCTION: February 27, 2004. PRODUCTION TEAM/CAST: Producer – Liberty Hall: The Legacy of Marcus Garvey, Director/Costume Designer – Nicosia Shakes. Performers: Jasmine Everett, Cleon “Ras Ja Ja” Golding, Donna MacFarlane, Abbebe Payne, Nicosia Shakes, Wayne Modest.
SONG FOR THE BELOVED
Performance at the Tenth Encuentro of the Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics, University of Chile, Santiago, Chile, July, 2016
Song for the Beloved is the most recent performance in the Memory, Urban Violence and Performance Project, which is directed by Honor Ford-Smith who is also Principal Researcher. Song for the Beloved was an interactive performance installation done as part of Encuentro eXcéntrico: “Cuerpos, soberanías y disidencias“, the Tenth Encuentro of the Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics in Santiago, Chile. Influenced by Jamaican Revival, an Afro-Christian religion and philosophy, the installation consisted of a large memorial table bearing stones with names of persons who had died violently in Jamaica and other countries in the Americas, a multimedia slideshow of performances of the MUVAP project in Jamaica and Canada, and three tables featuring one performer that interacted in different ways with visitors/participants. I was positioned at the Justice Table where I invited visitors to talk about loved ones they had lost to violence and their vision of reparations. The other performers were Camille Turner and Honor Ford-Smith. The performance was created by Ford-Smith, media performance artist, Camille Turner and visual artists, Kara Springer and Anique Jordan. It was dedicated to Black Lives Matter.
Photos Left to right: Nicosia Shakes at the Justice Table, visitors/participants at the central memorial table, “Song for the Beloved”. Photos by Kara Springer, copyright Nicosia Shakes.
Read the extended version of Nicosia Shakes’ Creative Portfolio.