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Experiments in a Jazz Aesthetic

Experiments in a Jazz Aesthetic

Omi Osun Joni L. Jones
Lisa L. Moore
Sharon Bridgforth
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  • Book Info
    Experiments in a Jazz Aesthetic
    Book Description:

    In Austin, Texas, in 2002, a group of artists, activists, and academics led by performance studies scholar Omi Osun Joni L. Jones formed the Austin Project (tAP), which meets annually in order to provide a space for women of color and their allies to build relationships based on trust, creativity, and commitment to social justice by working together to write and perform work in the jazz aesthetic.

    Inspired by this experience, this book is both an anthology of new writing and a sourcebook for those who would like to use creative writing and performance to energize their artistic, scholarly, and activist practices. Theoretical and historical essays by Omi Osun Joni L. Jones describe and define the African American tradition of art-making known as the jazz aesthetic, and explain how her own work in this tradition inspired her to start tAP.

    Key artists in the tradition, from Bessie Award-winning choreographer Laurie Carlos and writer/performer Robbie McCauley to playwrights Daniel Alexander Jones and Carl Hancock Rux, worked with the women of tAP as mentors and teachers. This book brings together never-before-published, must-read materials by these nationally known artists and the transformative writing of tAP participants. A handbook for workshop leaders by Lambda Literary Award-winning writer Sharon Bridgforth, tAP's inaugural anchor artist, offers readers the tools for starting similar projects in their own communities. A full-length script of the 2005 tAP performance is an original documentation of the collaborative, breath-based, body work of the jazz aesthetic in theatre, and provides both a script for use by theatre artists and an invaluable documentation of a major transformative movement in contemporary performance.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-79296-8
    Subjects: Performing Arts

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface: HOW TO USE THIS BOOK
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  5. Part I: Framing the Work

    • Chapter One. MAKING SPACE: Producing the Austin Project
      (pp. 3-11)
      Omi Osun Joni L. Jones

      When I first conceived the idea of the Austin Project in the fall of 2002, I didn’t know that I was trying to save my life. Perhaps each attempt at art or scholarship or activism is a way to ward off the annihilation of the self. Even as the idea began to acquire clear contours, I just thought it would be a good thing to do—bring together artists, activists, and scholars to collaborate on artwork and thereby share their individual techniques for bringing about social change. Now, eight years later, I know that I started the Austin Project (tAP)...

    • Chapter Two. FINDING VOICE: Anchoring the Austin Project’s Artistic Process
      (pp. 12-26)
      Sharon Bridgforth

      New Dramatists member Sharon Bridgforth is a two-time Alpert Award nominee in theater and the recipient of the 2008 Alpert/Hedgebrook Residency Prize. She received a National Performance Network Creation Fund Award fordelta dandi, which was commissioned by Women & Their Work and the NPN. Bridgforth is the author of the Lambda Award–winningthe bull-jean storiesand the performance novellove conjure/blues, both published by Redbone Press. Bridgforth is the fall 2009 Artist-in-Residence at Northwestern University in the Department of Performance Studies. For more, go to

      Because I have writtenWhite Chocolate, I can now speak about other things...

  6. Part II: Working the Work: An Anthology of Austin Project Writings

    • Chapter Three. POLYPHONY: Writings by Ensemble Members
      (pp. 29-153)

      Shannon’s main claim to fame is having moved thirty-five times by the time she was twenty-one years old. She is currently a recovering graduate student, a teacher, a poet, a performer, and a mama. She lives with her husband, Stephan, her daughter, Fiona, a baby-to-be, and three rambunctious cats in Austin, Texas. Her work has previously appeared inFarelu Literary Magazine , Texas Borderlands Poetry Review, anddi-vêrse’city: The Austin International Poetry Festival Anthology.

      season of joy and giving, we stake out

      parking spots, credit card bills and barbed wire

      around long distance phone calls.

      my childhood has been annexed...

    • Chapter Four. CALL AND RESPONSE: Performance Pieces by Austin Project Guest Artists
      (pp. 154-258)

      Laurie Carlos is always creating a center at the edges of contemporary American theater practice. With a vision developed over forty years, she is excavating platforms for the development of emerging artistic voices. She is an Obie Award–winning actor who created the role of the lady in blue in Ntozake Shange’sfor colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf. She is an inventive, two-time Bessie Award–winning director and choreographer forWhite ChocolateandHeat. Her work with Urban Bush Women and the performance collective Thought Music (with Robbie McCauley and Jessica Hagedorn) is legendary. Laurie...

    • Chapter Five. AFFIRMING CONNECTION: Pre-Show Artists’ Performance Texts
      (pp. 259-272)

      In this lifetime, Martha is native to Mexico City. She has a PhD in cultural geography with a focus on the phenomenology of earth-based lifeways and the Haitian cultural landscape. She has researched ancient ways of knowing from an academic and an experiential perspective, and directs her efforts to shift our human relationship to the earth with the wisdom left to us by our ancestors. Martha’s life has brought many opportunities to be amazed at various traditional healing systems in non-traditional settings. Growing up in Mexico, she was fascinated by localcuranderoculture, which fueled her excitement toward ethnographic work....

    • Chapter Six. SPOKEN-WORD ORCHESTRA: A Full Script from the Austin Project Jam Session, December 2005
      (pp. 273-320)

      The Austin Project Jam Session was originally produced by Omi Osun Joni L. Jones with support from the John L. Warield Center for African and African American Studies at the University of Texas at Austin and allgo, a statewide queer people of color organization in Austin, Texas. The jam session documented here was performed on April 1, 2005, at allgo, and on April 2, 2005, at the Lab Theatre at the UT Austin Department of Theatre and Dance.

      It is important to note that individuals who come to work with the Austin Project are at different stages in the development...

  7. Part III: The Work of Transformation

    • Chapter Seven. TRANSFORMING PRACTICE: Artists, Activists, and Academics Working across Boundaries
      (pp. 323-342)

      I have participated in the Austin Project since 2002. However, my relationship with the jazz aesthetic goes beyond tAP. In 1998, I was cast in Sharon Bridgforth’sblood pudding, a piece directed by Laurie Carlos. Through that experience, I, at eighteen, would learn jazz and I would learn about the cipher.

      At the time, I was not rhyming publicly. I was supporting a large number of male-centered hip-hop groups, singing background, carrying gear, and watching from the sidelines. The cipher then was the sidewalk outside the club where I would rhyme alone to whatever my homeboys were rhyming to onstage...

    • Chapter Eight. WORK OF THE SPIRIT: A Conversation with an Austin Project Elder
      (pp. 343-349)

      Xicanindio elder, poet, and human rights activist raúlrsalinas was the executive director of Red Salmon Arts and founder of Resistencia Bookstore—a literary venue and community center for aspiring writers in Austin, Texas. raúl conducted intensive creative writing clinics locally and throughout the country with disenfranchised youth. These clinics were held in conjunction with a variety of arts organizations, correctional facilities and social service agencies. raúl’s work with various political movements earned him an international reputation as an eloquent spokesperson for justice and advocate for the challenges and struggles of youth. Through SOY (Save Our Youth), raúl reached countless marginalized...

    • Chapter Nine. NARRATING THE AUSTIN PROJECT: The First Five Years
      (pp. 350-368)
      Omi Osun Joni L. Jones

      InJune Jordan’s Poetry for the People, Jordan and many of her students meticulously describe the steps they took toward publishing their work and presenting their work in public. Jordan writes “For anyone interested, this Blueprint will spare you most of the trial and many of the errors of my own gradual discoveries.”¹ Likewise, I have laid out the details of tAP’s development to provide others with a guide as they work to establish similar projects in their communities. Rather than instruct readers on how to transform their artistic community activism into published texts and community poetry trainings as Jordan...

  8. NOTES
    (pp. 369-372)
  9. INDEX
    (pp. 373-376)