Thursday, 3 August 2017

Woke Dramaturgy: Apphia Campbell

As part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2017, Play the Spotlight Theatre & Made In Scotland presents
aware of systemic injustices and prejudices, especially related to civil and human rights:

After the 2014 & 2015 hit show 'Black Is the Color of My Voice', Apphia Campbell returns with a brand new play which tells the story of the African-American experience. 

WOKE will be performed at Gilded Balloon Teviot - Wine Bar, Friday 4 - Monday 28 August at 2pm.

This one woman show is set to original music as well as traditional gospel and blues and tells the story of two real life women, 42 years apart who become involved in the struggle for civil rights. 

One, a notorious Black Panther and Tupac Shakur’s Aunt Assata Shakur; the other, a present day university student who enters university at the beginning of the Black Lives Matter movement. 

Both challenge the American justice system, become criminalized through political activism and are ultimately faced with a choice - to fight or to flee. 

What was the inspiration for this performance?

Last year, I watched the documentary,  13th, which was about the 13th Amendment in the U.S and how that has promoted the growing prison population. 

I was moved and really inspired to become politically active. I noticed that many people had been mentioning Assata Shakur’s name and I went back and re-read her biography. I started noticing so many similarities between the Black Panther movement and the present day movement and I wanted to explore that dynamic. 

Is performance still a good space for the public discussion of ideas? 

Absolutely, it’s one of the best ways to get an audience to understand and empathize with you on certain issues. They are more open to listen when it’s put in a fun, entertaining and moving way. 

How did you become interested in making performance?

I’ve always been performing ever since I was a little girl. My first performance was as a little girl when I was four, and I played a French hen. I remember not bouncing up and down on purpose to see what would happen. I guess you can say that’s the rebel in me—coming out at a young age. 

Is there any particular approach to the making of the show?

I guess I always start with a question and then I use to play to try to find the answers. It’s interesting to be abroad and feeling like I want to be involved politically. Sometimes I feel like I want to be in those marches, town hall meetings, or volunteering to help my local senator.  

So, it was really important for me to be able to voice my reaction to the changing America. Living in the U.K., I noticed that people don’t often speak about race and the quickest way to silence a room is to bring it up. 

I guess I also had that in the back of my mind when I was working on the piece. I wanted to make a piece that transcends race and focuses on the root of the problem—which is the system. I feel it’s important for people to see themselves in a situation; creating empathy hopefully generates change.  

Does the show fit with your usual productions?

I would say I love to focus on women and most of my work has some sort of political message. So, this follows along those same lines.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?

I hope to create activist or people who want to be involved more politically. Overall, I hope it helps the audience walks away and go home and research as much as possible and hopefully look at the world differently when it comes to political activism. 

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?

I wanted the audience to fall in love with the main character. So, I made her as funny and likeable as possible.  

I’m having so much fun playing Ambrosia because she’s just looks at the world in such an innocent way. It’s refreshing. 

WOKE was chosen to be part of the Made in Scotland showcase and is written and staged by Edinburgh based performer Apphia Campbell and directed by Caitlin Skinner.

Apphia Campbell is originally from Florida and after graduating from college moved to New York where she performed Off-Broadway. In 2009, she moved to Shanghai, China where she sang blues, jazz and pop in various venues including The Cotton Club, Park Hyatt, Le Meridian Hotel and JZ music festivals. 

In 2012 she formed Play The Spotlight Theatre Company (PTS). And in 2013 she wrote her critically acclaimed piece, Black Is The Color Of My Voice and opened in Shanghai to rave reviews. Apphia debuted BITCOMV at Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2014 where it sold out and has been touring the U.K ever since.

Her most recent theatre credits include: The Color Purple (James Harkness, WBTT Theatre), Holiday Hitch (PTS theatre, Director Meredith Yarbrough), No Exit (Blue Lane Theatre, Director Michael Beets), The Deciders (New York Fringe Festival, Director Jay Michaels) and Beehive (Temple Theatre, Director Ray Kennedy).  
Caitlin Skinner is Artistic Director of new pop up writing theatre company The Village Pub Theatre and recipient of the Tom McGrath Maverick Award. Her directing credits include Hair of the Dog with Village Pub Theatre (Village Pub Theatre, Traverse Festival) The Strange Case of Jekyll and Hyde (Lung Ha Theatre Company), Sanitise (Jordan & Skinner, Winner of 2014 Scotsman Fringe First Award) Selkie and The Happiest Day of Brendan Smillie’s Life (A Play, A Pie and A Pint) and Noye’s Fludde (Lammamuir/McOpera). Caitlin was dramaturg on As the Crow Flies (Greg Sinclair/Imaginate) and rehearsal director for A Stone’s Throw (Giddy Aunt). 

Caitlin has worked as Assistant Director with National Theatre of Scotland (The James Plays, Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour, Driver’s Seat) Dundee Rep (In My Father’s Words) Traverse Theatre (Breakfast Plays) and Royal Lyceum Theatre (Cinderella). Her new show with Jordan & Skinner At A Stretch opens at the Storytelling Centre in August 2017.

LISTINGS INFORMATION: WOKE will be performed from at Gilded Balloon Teviot - Wine Bar, 2pm. Tickets £6 - £12 Friday 4 – Wednesday 16, Sunday 20 - Monday 28 August

Made in Scotland is a curated showcase of high quality performance from Scotland at the world’s biggest arts festival, made possible by support from the Scottish Government’s Edinburgh Festivals Expo Fund. It is a partnership between the Festival Fringe Society, the Federation of Scottish Theatre (FST) Scottish Music Centre and Creative Scotland.

 @apphia campbell |  @apphia campbell  

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