A VIPER VAUDEVILLE
A theatrical concert exploring the history of cannabis using music, dance, and spoken word grounded in the Hip Hop tradition of the remix and mashup. The team includes Grace Galu as composer/performer, Baba Israel as writer, performer, co-director, Talvin Wilks as dramaturg/co-director, and Nic Benacerraf as environment designer/associate director, in collaboration with hip hop and spoken word collective, Soul Inscribed, and an ensemble of dancers that includes members of the revolutionary Urban Bush Women, Tatiana Barber, and mesmerizing street dancer and krumper, Rocka Jamez. Inspired by Martin A. Lee’s book Smoke Signals: A Social History of Marijuana, CANNABIS! A VIPER VAUDEVILLE weaves the music of icons such as Louis Armstrong and Bob Marley with the stories of grassroots activists Dennis Perron and Brownie Mary with personal narratives. From Congo Square to the speakeasies of the jazz age, from the revolutionary happenings of the ’60s to the AIDS activism of the San Francisco buyers club, our time traveling tale invokes a tradition of rebel spaces — sites of music, healing, and resistance.
Commissioned, developed and produced by HERE
Additional support for Cannabis! A Viper Vaudeville is provided by the MAP Fund; the New England Foundation for the Arts; and made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature.
Ticket buyers will receive communication from the festival and its various box offices about ticketing options this week.
Grace Galu (Composer, Performer) is a vocalist, actor, guitarist and composer. She combines the sounds of her Irish and Congolese heritage and her LES upbringing in a soulful and gritty twist.. Grace was featured in Buskerball, and recorded “Firelight” with Fearless Music. Her composition, “Ordinary Sentiment” was featured in the Ed Burns film, “Purple Violets” which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival. Grace devised The Mendelssohn Electric with Trusty Sidekick, and was cast as the lead in their production, The Gospel Electric, commissioned by the Park Avenue Armory. She is a core member of the band Soul Inscribed, and was twice selected as a cultural ambassador for the American Music Abroad program. She has been selected as a cultural ambassador for their next residency program (2022). Grace is also a recipient of the NEFA NTP grant. Soul Inscribed has recently been signed to the music label, Tokyo Dawn and just released their EP, Tune UP. Grace is an artist in residence at HERE Arts Center and the composer for Cannabis! A Viper Vaudeville. Grace voiced Wisdom in Nia Witherspoon’s production, The Dark Girl Chronicles (2021 at The Shed).
Baba Israel (Creator, Writer, Performer) is an artist, producer, educator, and consultant raised in New York by parents who were core members of the Living Theatre. He was Artistic Director of Contact Theatre in Manchester where he developed several festivals and productions. He was a resident artist at BRIC creating his latest multimedia performance The Spinning Wheel in collaboration with London-based company Unfinished Business. He is a core member of Hip Hop/Soul project Soul Inscribed, which recently completed the American Music Abroad program. He holds an MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts from Goddard College and is the Co-Artistic Director of the Performance Project based at the University Settlement. He is a proud member of HERE’s HARP program and is developing his current production, Cannabis! A Viper Vaudeville.
Talvin Wilks (Director) is a playwright, director, and dramaturg. His plays include Tod, the boy, Tod, The Trial of Uncle S&M, Jimmy and Lorraine: A Musing, and As I Remember It with Carmen de Lavallade. Major directorial projects include UDU by Sekou Sundiata, The Love Space Demands by Ntozake Shange, The Shaneequa Chronicles by Stephanie Berry, This Bitter Earth by Harrison David Rivers, The Peculiar Patriot by Liza Jessie Peterson, and The Ballad of Emmett Till and Benevolence by Ifa Bayeza. He is a co-writer/co-director/dramaturg for Ping Chong’s ongoing series of Undesirable Elements and Collidescope: Adventures in Pre- and Post-Racial America. Dance Dramaturgical collaborations include six works with the Bebe Miller Company including Landing/Place for which he received a 2006 Bessie Award, Camille A. Brown and Dancers (Mr. TOL E. RAncE, BLACK GIRL: Linguistic Play, and ink), and Urban Bush Women (Hep Hep Sweet Sweet, Walking with ‘Trane, and SCAT!).
Nic Benacerraf (Environment Design, Associate Director) is a creative director, scenographer, and public scholar. He specializes in highly collaborative processes that incorporate design from the get-go. Nic was co-Artistic Director of The Assembly (Seagullmachine, HOME/SICK), and recently co-founded [ [ edge effect ] ], a transdisciplinary group that playfully deconstructs the techniques of mass persuasion in our everyday lives. His collaborators include Trusty Sidekick (Up & Away), The Living Theatre (Here We Are), Waterwell (GOODBAR), HERE (Looking At You), The New Wild (Everybody Is Gone), as well as arts/activist groups: The Brooklyn Commune, Calling Us In, and The Yes Men. Nic’s learning communities include Wesleyan (BA), CalArts (MA/MFA), and the CUNY Graduate Center, where he is a Mellon PublicsLab Fellow and is finishing a PhD in Theatre & Performance.