IN THIS ISSUE:
Founder, Co-Artistic Director
Welcome to Odysseys
This Edition: From Frisco to Soweto
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video introduction (QuickTime required):
Welcome to Odysseys, an online newsletter for Rhodessa Jones and Idris Ackamoor of Cultural Odyssey. This newsletter covers one of the most amazing periods in the artistic lives of Rhodessa and Idris!! Truly unprecedented! Follow Jones & Ackamoor to South Africa and Trinidad, experience their 30th Anniversary Celebration in San Francisco, and participate in the Cultural Odyssey Film’s upcoming release, “From Frisco to Soweto”. Rhodessa Jones invites you to become a contributor and supporter to assist in the pre-production expenses for this feature length documentary. During the past 5 years Rhodessa and a filmmaking crew have shot over 70 hours of rehearsal and performance footage of female inmates from the Naturena Female Prison in Johannesburg, South Africa. It is now imperative that the footage is viewed, logged, and digitized. In addition, the narrative and storyboard must be written, fundraising plan put in place, and finally a short fundraising excerpt edited and finalized. The donations will be utilized to underwrite the aforementioned pre-production expenses. Please help Rhodessa raise the necessary $10000 to realize this important project!
The Impact of . . . You
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Your support is critical at this time! If you do not contribute “From Frisco to Soweto” could be delayed indefinitely. Support for the documentary will assist Rhodessa enormously in her work as an international ambassador of innovative, life-changing theater projects with female prisoners that reduce recidivism, reunite families, and truly rehabilitate often poor and abused women who have gotten caught up in the criminal justice system, so that they can re-plot their lives and become contributing members of society. You make a difference.
Click here to help us reach our goal.
A Historic Moment
World cup fever! South Africa at center stage! Football madness! A mammoth International Arts Festival! Winter in South Africa. This is what greeted Rhodessa and Idris upon their arrival in South Africa. First stop the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, South Africa. Departing San Francisco on June 23, 2010 Jones & Ackamoor begin the arduous air voyage of over 30 hours to Port Elizabeth airport to arrive at the southern most tip of the continent. What a sight when they arrived at the Port Elizabeth airport! There were troupes of colorful Zulu dancers and musicians playing for the deplaning passengers. Their Festival representative was promptly there and greeted them as they piled into the van for the hour and twenty minute trip to Grahamstown. Rhodessa and Idris quickly and effortlessly checked into a wonderful bed and breakfast provided by the festival and settled in.
On Sunday, June 27th Rhodessa and Idris moved into the Victoria Theater, a wonderful 300-seat venue. Cultural Odyssey’s production, “Big Butt Girls, Hard-Headed Women” was one of the featured performances in the festival’s main program. Rhodessa and Idris quickly conducted the necessary technical set up and rehearsals to prepare for a Monday, June 28th opening.
“Big Butt Girls, Hard-Headed Women” was performed for over 600 audience members who enthusiastically received the show. Once the show closed we were able to attend other productions featured at the festival through the use of complimentary tickets provided by the sponsor. The National Arts Festival is one of the premiere festivals in the world! Rhodessa and Idris could not believe the size of the festival! Not only did the festival present a main stage roster of productions, but equally as well an enormous fringe festival that had all matter of artists mounting and marketing their shows to large appreciative audiences.
Cultural Odyssey left Grahamstown for Johannesburg to begin a six-week residency leading to a major performance at the International Women’s Festival in Pretoria. The residency took place in the Johannesburg female prison popularly known as “Sun City”.
For the first time in South African history female inmates were taken from the prison under deputy guard to perform at the South African State Theater. This was unprecedented and an enormous success. In addition Jones and Ackamoor did an encore performance of “Big Butt Girls, Hard-Headed Women”.
In addition, Rhodessa and Idris also performed and lectured at the renowned Luthuli Museum (Chief Albert John Mvumbi Luthuli is a commemorated figure within South Africa’s liberation movement) near Durban.
Serious Fun Returns to Sun City
Medea in Africa has a ring to it. We are here to finish a three-year cycle of creating theater at Johannesburg Correctional Services. The Women’s Center of Excellence is the place of our residency. Again, we are going in five days a week 9:30-12:30. It is winter in July. The days have gone from bone chilling dry cold to the warmth of springtime. Lucky for us and due to the overcrowding inside, we have been conducting our workshop outside in the courtyard of the prison. Hardheaded women bouncing off the concrete!! I am once again living with the reality of creating theater in alien places.
There is no quiet space. There are no desks. We must crave a space out of the concrete for processing. I am reinventing ways to “workout” on the cement in the sometimes unforgiving African sun! It has been exhilarating – finding ways out of no way!
It is Africa, but the faces and bodies are the bodies of wild women the world over! It is a challenge, outside to watch over them, as they attempt to follow my lead into handstands, balances, backbends and squat thrusts! The fresh air, the oxygen, the body’s own memory takes over- calling on our “girl spirits” – wild, irrepressible, undaunted! There is a joyous ferocity like none I’ve experienced!
“Serious Fun At Sun City 3” is a culmination of our prison residencies here in South Africa. The performance is rooted in the structure of a classroom including desks and chairs. “Homework” is relegated to the evenings after the women return to their cells. Their writings are still the basis for the investigations, imaginings and explorations of life behind bars for women:
In a dream I saw a way to survive.
Calling on sleep –where do you go when you dream?
I remember my mother (a sentence and a gesture)
Love don’t love nobody! (monologues of violence and betrayal)
What’s in a name? (who gives you the strength to do your time?
What have we learned? (life lessons)
If I could turn back the hands of time…..
They are still writing from memory- perusing the lost years, their lost youth. The process here behind these walls begins with questions. Where will the answers take us? Can our own writings plant the seeds of change in our lives?
“I am just another worn out pilgrim here in the valley of tears.”
Here in Africa, the weight of the work is so very heavy, cumbersome. The African Medea Company is comprised of the original core with a new addition of very young uneducated underclass girls who have been overlooked and discarded! Women with no voices: only fragments of dances from tribal memory. They are passionate about their cultural songs and the need for it to be just right. Yet they cannot express their reasoning and desires for this. They are experts at undercover petulance, – dark seething quite anger. They are young women holding no opinions, defiant with no place to stand- no knowledge of their roots, their traditional African culture – God is the only real or surreal anchor they can imagine to cling…….
Melville, Johannesburg South Africa
July 23, 2010
|STATE THEATER VIDEO PERFORMANCE|
Trinidad & Tobago 2010!
Hot! Lush! Shark & Bake! Wings restaurant! Crazy elections! As I write this, I sit in my apartment at Auzonville Heights in Tunapuna, a suburb of Port of Spain and immediately adjacent to The University of the West Indies. My long time partner-in-crime, Rhodessa Jones and I are conducting an intensive three-week rehearsal period with three of the best female calypso singers on the island, Singing Sandra,
Shereen Ceasar and Kizzie Ruiz. We are working with a talented group of accompanying musicians as well on the musical theater production, “An Evening With Three Women of Calypso”, a collaboration between the National Performance Network’s Performing Americas Program, the University of the West Indies, and Cultural Odyssey.
This is Cultural Odyssey’s fourth visit to Trinidad through assistance from the NPN and this trip culminates a remarkable creative and spiritual time here in the West Indies. “Three Women of Calypso” will tour to four American cities in 2011 including San Francisco.
|Women of Calypso|
Women of Calypso: Coming to USA in 2011!
The California Arts Council’s DOJ Presenting award supported a California tour of “Artistic Being”, which featured Idris Ackamoor on alto saxophone, tap dance, mbiras, a variety of percussions, and invented instruments. As well, Frederick Harris was the principle accompanist on drums and piano. There were also several engagements when other musical guests joined the duet.
Renting a cargo van, Ackamoor and Harris hit the road to perform at a variety of rural venues and arts councils including the Lassen County Arts Council in
Susanville, Sierra County Arts Council (performing in Sierraville at a school auditorium and in Downieville at the Yuba Theatre), El Dorado Arts Council in Placerville, Healdsburg Jazz Festival in Healdsburg, Mammoth Lakes Arts Council (performing at Rafters Club & Restaurant and the Mammoth Elementary School), Miners Foundry Cultural Center in Nevada City, and for the Antioch Music Foundation (performing at the Delta Performing Arts Academy in Antioch). In addition, to kick off the tour Artistic Being performed in San Francisco at the DeYoung Museum and the African American Art & Culture Complex.
The CAC DOJ Presenting grant was a life-changing project! As a jazz artist it was incredibly moving and inspirational. Through the assistance of the CAC Cultural Odyssey received an email list of arts councils around California. Cultural Odyssey then prepared an e-marketing piece seeking presenters who would like to book a free performance of Artistic Being that would also be free admission for the their constituencies. The response Cultural Odyssey received from the e-marketing piece was amazing! Within a 72-hour period the tour was booked for a solid three weeks!!
30th ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATIONS!!
|Click to view performance photos|
This year marked Cultural Odyssey’s 30th Anniversary!! In celebration of Black History Month and National Women’s Month Cultural Odyssey presented a 30th Anniversary Celebration of New Works Thursdays through Sundays, February 4 – March 14, 2010. All performances were at the Buriel Clay Theater at the African American Art & Culture Complex located at 762 Fulton Street, San Francisco. The opening Anniversary Celebration was the San Francisco premiere of The Love Project that ran February 4 – February 14, 2010. Cultural Odyssey’s world premiere production of The Breach ran February 18 – February 28, featuring dancer/choreographer/aerialist Joanna Haigood, actress/singer Rhodessa Jones, and actor/musician/composer Idris Ackamoor. Cultural world premiere production of Dancing with the Clown of Love ran March 4 – 14, 2010. In addition, Cultural Odyssey curated a 30-year retrospective of posters, artwork, and memorabilia in the Sergeant Johnson Gallery of the Culture Complex that coincided with the performances.
The impact and success of the Anniversary celebrations on Cultural Odyssey has been enormously significant! The resulting publicity that has been generated has been incredible! The artists of The Breach were featured on the cover of the Bay Area’s most significant theater magazine, Theater Bay Area, as well as the cover of the San Francisco Arts Monthly. A major glowing review ran in the San Francisco Chronicle. There was also a three-page preview in the Theater Bay Area magazine featuring The Medea Project show “Dancing With the Clown of Love”, and there was a feature on Rhodessa Jones in the San Francisco Chronicle, as well as many television and radio interviews including a feature on Black Renaissance TV. There was also a feature interview that aired on KCBS radio over a two-day period. In addition, The Mayor of San Francisco, Gavin Newsom, proclaimed February 13, 2010 as CULTURAL ODYSSEY DAY
IN SAN FRANCISCO!
Equally significant, The Honorable Senator Mark Leno, of the 3rd Senatorial District issued a California Senate Resolution commending Cultural Odyssey on the occasion of its thirtieth anniversary! As well, The San Francisco Board of Supervisors issued a Certificate of Honor in recognition of “thirty years dedicated to the San Francisco’s cultural life by providing jazz music and theatrical performances accessible to all.”
The audiences for the performances were remarkably diverse! Cultural Odyssey partnered with many social service organizations including participants at Walden House, WORLD (Women Organized to Respond to Life-threatening Disease), Renaissance Youth Movement, Ferguson Place, AILP – Baker Places, Inc., Good Shepherd Grace Center, and Glide Memorial Church. We were able to offer free tickets and subsidized tickets through support from the Zellerbach Family Foundation.
Onward and Upward
Cultural Odyssey’s 2010 -2011 Season promises to be spectacular! Idris Ackamoor and his 70’s groundbreaking jazz/world music ensemble, The Pyramids, will have a European Reunion Tour featuring the original members of the band. The Pyramids will perform in Holland, Germany, France, Denmark, and Italy during December 2010!! The Cultural Odyssey production of Three Women of Calypso will tour to four cities in America directed by Rhodessa Jones and musical direction by Idris Ackamoor. Be a part of the globalization of Cultural Odyssey with continued activities in South Africa, Trinidad and the Caribbean, Europe, San Francisco, and throughout America. Support Cultural Odyssey and journey with us “In Search of Human Culture”.
Visit us on My Space at The Pyramids European Tour!