British Columbia presents the dazzling multimedia work No Blue Memories: The Life of Gwendolyn Brooks on February 24, 2019, at 7pm in the Chan Shun Concert Hall as part of the Beyond Words series. The late poet was a radical and disruptive presence within the national literary scene, becoming the first African-American to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1950. In this ambitious creation, innovative art-collective Manual Cinema collaborates with Chicago-based poets Eve L. Ewing and Nate Marshall to craft an inspiring biographical narrative, featuring a live six-piece band and original score by Jamila Woods and Ayanna Woods.
Born in 1917 in Kansas and raised in Chicago, Gwendolyn Brooks worked for decades as an acclaimed artist, mentor to aspiring poets, and advocate for schoolchildren. She became one of the most widely read authors in America, using her poetic eloquence to convey the black experience. The Pulitzer Prize-winning Annie Allen was a collection of poignant portraits, and was the first of Brooks’ many boundary-breaking accomplishments. She was the first black woman to become a poetry consultant for the Library of Congress, the first to be inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and was appointed Poet Laureate of Illinois in 1968.
No Blue Memories traces the political arc of her career and the development of her craft. Manual Cinema’s production uses a combination of exquisite shadow puppetry, vintage overhead projectors, multiple screens, actors, live feed cameras, multi-channel sound design, and live music. Written by Ewing and Marshall — also known collectively as Crescendo Literary, a name taken from a Brooks composition — the evocative performance poetically explores her legacy. Fellow Chicago-based soul singer Jamila Woods collaborated with multi-instrumentalist Ayanna Woods for the original score, which will be performed live. The multimedia work was commissioned by the Poetry Foundation for Brooks’ centenary in 2017 and premiered in Chicago.
Chan Centre Connects Events (chancentre.com/connects)
A series of ancillary events programmed in conjunction with Chan Centre performances, exploring the role of arts and artists in society.
• Telling Stories with Shadows: A Workshop with Manual Cinema — Sat, Feb 23, 7pm at the Vancouver Art Gallery (750 Hornby St). Manual Cinema provides a behind-the-scenes look at their immersive storytelling techniques and inventive cinematic language in this two-hour interactive workshop. $25.
• Pre-Show Talk with Jillian Christmas — Sun, Feb 24, 6:15pm in the Royal Bank Cinema at the Chan Centre. Jillian Christmas, local poet and former Artistic Director of Verses Festival of Words, explores Brooks’ legacy and literature. Free for ticket holders.
Chan Centre Presents No Blue Memories: The Life of Gwendolyn Brooks
Date: Sunday, February 24, 2019 at 7pm
Ticket Prices: From $20
Address: Chan Centre for the Performing Arts
University of British Columbia
6265 Crescent Road
Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z1
Box Office: 604-822-2697 / chancentre.com
In person at the Chan Centre ticket office
Open Tue–Sat, 12pm–5pm
Photo by Julia Miller
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