Nia Witherspoon’s Priestess of Twerk
December 9 & 10, 2022
This Ritual-Concert will include ASL interpretation.
A Sensory Reprieve Space is available in the lobby for anyone needing a quiet location. Please ask a Links Hall staff member or a Temple Priestess for assistance if required.
A Note from Nia Witherspoon
HERE, we pray to and honor all of the Black Women + Femme Goddesses + Ancestors that have come before us and paved the way. THIS is a space of reparations for the legacy of emotional, physical, and spiritual labor Black Women + Femmes continue to endure at the hands of white supremacist, cis-gender, heteronormative patriarchal capitalism. (continued next page)
While all are welcome in our space, HERE, Black Women + Femmes are our resident goddesses, and our honored guests. Black Women + Femmes, please know this and you are invited to move as the goddesses that you are. Everyone else, please treat them as such. In accordance with these guidelines, Black Women + Femmes will receive priority in lines. Black Women + Femmes are always to be acknowledged and spoken to with respect, and never to be touched without consent.
Breathe. Please take a moment to notice how these requests to center Black Women + Femmes feel in your body and your spirit. Welcome to the temple.
(Pictured left to right: Nia Witherspoon, Reem “Dreeemy” Abdou, Jenn Freeman aka Po’Chop, Jack Fuller, Justin Hicks, Brandi Holt, CeeJaye Iman, Antwane Lee, Serena Ebony Miller, Shelley Nicole, Anna Martine Whitehead, and Caren Celine Morris)
Priestess of Twerk Creative Team
Nia Witherspoon, Creator / Performer
Aaliyah Christina, Temple Priestess Supporter
Jenn Freeman aka Po’Chop, Performer / Installation Design
Jack Fuller, Music Director / Performer
Remi Harris & HERE Art Center (NYC), Line Producer
Justin Hicks, Sound Dramaturg / Witness
Brandi Holt, Costume Designer
CeeJaye Iman & Onyx Preye Engo, Hair / Makeup / Wardrobe
Antwane Lee, Creator of the The Solar Barque
Serena Ebony Miller, Performer / Cello
Shelley Nicole, Performer / Percussionist
Anna Martine Whitehead, Dramaturg / Witness
Production & Accessibility Team
Ireashia Bennett, Accessibility Consultant
Katie Collins, Box Office Manager
Chih-Jou Cheng, House Manager
Alejandra “Ale” Favila, Lighting
Julikka LaChe, American Sign Language Interpreter
Margaret McCarthy, Sound
Caren Celine Morris, Production Stage Manager
Stephanie Pacheco, Chicago Producer
Sathapat “Pat” Sangsuwan, Sound
Paul Scudder, Livestream
Giau Truong, Technical Director
ABOUT THE SOLAR BARQUE
The Solar Barque installation (Ritual Concert) was created by Chicago artist Antwane Lee. This Afrofuturistic sculpture deals with the magical realism of Ancient Egypt and Nubia. The Ancient Egyptians and Nubians believed that the sun was a deity, Ra, and had metaphysical powers as the giver of life on Earth and creator of the universe. The solar barque would carry Ra across the heavens during the day and assumed many manifestations. It would then go through the underworld and different dimensions/realities at night in preparation for Ra’s rebirth in the east. The project seeks to change our thinking and understanding of art as the design celebrates and explores the spiritual beliefs of two African Nilotic cultures in a contemporary context. It was exhibited as the centerpiece of The Solar Shrine at Burning Man 2022, this past summer in Nevada. On loan courtesy the artist.
ABOUT THE ARTISTS
Nia O. Witherspoon (Smith BA/Stanford PhD) is a Black queer multidisciplinary artist + healing justice practitioner investigating the metaphysics of black liberation, desire, and diaspora, as they track across the space-time continuum. Combining Black feminism, indigenous epistemologies, eco-feminism, and auto-critogrophy with mediums in writing, performance, sound, and installation, Witherspoon creates expansive portals for communion, witnessing, and healing with Black femmes at the center.. Current and recent works include: Priestess of Twerk: A Black Femme Temple to Pleasure (HERE Art Center/Musical Theatre Factory, 2024), Chronicle X: The Dark Girl Chronicles (The Shed, 2021), and MESSIAH (La Mama, 2019). She is a NEFA/NTP recipient, a Creative Capital Awardee, a Jerome New Artist Fellow, a current artist in residence at HERE Art Center and Musical Theatre Factory, and former resident at BAX/Brooklyn Arts Exchange, New York Theatre Workshop. Her work has been or will be featured by The Shed, BRIC, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Joe’s Pub, HERE, JACK, La Mama ETC, Playwright’s Realm, Links Hall, National Black Theatre, Brava Theatre, BAAD, Movement Research, BAX, Dixon Place, Painted Bride, 651 Arts, and elsewhere. Her writing is published in the Journal of Popular Culture; Imagined Theatres; Women and Collective Creation; and IMANIMAN: Poets Writing in the Anzaldúan Borderlands. She has been a professor at Arizona State University, Florida State University, Fordham University, and University of Massachusetts. Follow her @niasoli on Instagram to stay up to date on all the happenings! www.niawitherspoon.com, www.priestessoftwerk.com
Reem Abdou – also known as DREEEMY – is a New York-based indigenous Egyptian interdisciplinary creator, activist, speaker and facilitator. For the last decade she has been known as a transnational community organizer, DJ, sound artist, ethnomusicologist, interdisciplinary cultural carrier, embodied consciousness meditation guide, and ceremonialist. She has joined Priestess of Twerk as a performer, pathfinder, and spirit-oriented sound artist.
Jenn Freeman – also known as Po’Chop – is a Chicago-based burlesque artist who uses elements of dance, storytelling, and striptease to create performances and inspire students and collaborators across the country. Po’Chop is the creator and author of the blogzine, The Brown Pages and has performed at the Brooklyn Museum in Brown Girls Burlesque’s Bodyspeak, at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance for TedxChicago 2022 and headlined shows in New Orleans, Minneapolis, Denver, St. Louis and New York. Po’Chop is a board Member & Cast Member, for Jeezy’s Juke Joint, an all Black burlesque revue. Po’Chop performs on Netflix’s Easy (Season 2), appears in music videos for songs by Jamila Woods and Mykele Deville, and creates and performs in experimental dance films such as LITANY. Jenn Freeman was recognized as a 2022 United States Artist Fellow; a 2021 Foundation of Contemporary Art Grant for Artist recipient, selected as a 2019-2020 Urban Bush Women Choreographic Fellow and as a 2018 Chicago Dancemakers Lab Artist. Po’Chop was voted #10 Most Influential Burlesque Artist by 21st Century Magazine and was dancer in residence at Rebuild Foundation in 2020.
Jack Fuller, is an artists born and raised in Harlem NYC’s Sugar Hill. They studied at Harlem School of the Arts and LaGuardia High School as a vocalist instrumentalist actor arranger songwriter. As a queer child in harlem, adversity was no stranger. Always misunderstood, always different they reach for communication through their work to understand their art is to understand them. The two spirited/two headed creative force has 2 albums out the latest of which is “The Build”. They have since reentered the Theater World, working on New projects with Taylor Mac and Matt Rae. They are also working their own theater piece “Thoughts and Involuntary Mantras”, described as “an overthinkers first time falling in love” slated for workshop summer 2023
Justin Hicks is a Drama Desk–nominated singer-songwriter and sound artist who makes music and performances that investigate identity and value. He’s collaborated with notable artists such as Abigail DeVille, Kaneza Schaal, Mimi Lien, Andrea Miller, Lynsey Peisinger, Meshell Ndegeocello, Charlotte Brathwaite, Hilton Als, Bill T. Jones, and Steffani Jemison. His work has been featured at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, The Public, Baryshnikov Art Center, Festival steirischer herbst (Graz, Austria), and The Albertinum Museum (Dresden, Germany). Most recently he was the composer for Lynn Nottage’s latest play Clyde’s on Broadway. Hicks was a member of Kara Walker’s 6-8 Months Space and holds a culinary diploma from ICE in New York City.
Brandi Holt is a Black American and Afro-Colombian designer, artist, and arts administrator living in Brooklyn, NY. She has been designing and creating art under the label Escarria for the past 10 years. Her main creative practices are fashion design, illustration and more recently costume design. Recent costume works include: UGLY Part 3: BLUE (ImpulsTanz Festival, Vienna, Austria) and WEDNESDAY (New York Live Arts, NY, NY) Escarria.com
CeeJaye E. Iman (she/her) is an interdisciplinary artist and liberationist. For the past 18 years, she has used makeup & movement as her mediums to uplift and amplify the voices of those who fall within the most marginalized intersections in communities of color. CeeJaye’s collaborative credits include NIKE, WNBA, NBA, Conde Nast, Teen Vogue & PitchFork Brand. Additionally, CeeJaye a member of the Queer Black woman-owned dance ensemble: Body Confidence For Queens & resident choreographer with the Northwestern dance troupe B. Burlesque.
Antwane Lee is the creator of The Solar Barque. He is a licensed architect and artist and has received many awards through his emerging artistic practice. Most recently he received honorariums, grants, and recognition from Burning Man, Love Burn, Lakes of Fire, and the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events.
Serena Ebony Miller is an actor, string player, composer and teacher based in NYC. Select appearances: Richard III (Composer/Musician), Arden: But Not Without You (Bass/Cello), Sancocho Severance (Cello), Priestess of Twerk @ HERE Arts NYC (Cello), The Sisters (Composer/Musician). She has performed across NYC as a freelance cellist and bassist with some of her favorite venues including The Cutting Room, Joe’s Pub, Town Hall, and Symphony Space. Serena is so grateful to be a part of the Priestess of Twerk team. Octopus mind!
Caren Celine Morris (she/her/hers) is a multidisciplinary theatre artist from The Bronx. She aims to promote inclusion, diversity, and accessibility in all of her projects. Caren has worked on projects with The Tank, The Shed, Ping Chong & Company, Derek Fordjour Studios, Audible @ Minetta Lane Theatre, NYC Civic Engagement Commission, The Public, and The Bushwick Starr.
Shelley Nicole is a transformational healer using the power of love and the energetic magic of music to shift the world. She is songwriter, vocalist, composer, actress and founder of the band Shelley Nicole’s blaKbüshe, which has released three albums, she who bleeds…, The Quick & Dirty EP and I Am American. Her music, forged from rock, funk and soul’s connective tissue, empowers women to reclaim their cultural identity, and personal agency. Shelley has performed around the globe and graced a multitude of stages including Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, The Apollo Theater, Afropunk, Son d’hiver and the Hammer Museum. Shelley appeared in the world premiere of Nia O. Witherspoon’s Messiah Complex and multiple iterations of her Dark Girl Chronicles: Chronicle X. She is excited to be part of this latest work, Priestess of Twerk.
Anna Martine Whitehead does performance from the homelands of the Council of the Three Fires, among others. They write about race, gender, and moving bodies; and support coalition movements committed to developing practices of repair and transformation.
SUPPORT FOR PRIESTESS OF TWERK
This project is made possible by an ArtsForward grant from the Association of Performing Arts Professionals, made possible through support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Priestess of Twerk’s Chicago tour and residency would not be possible without additional support from Ragdale. Special thanks to Director of Education Regin Igloria and Director of Communications & Engagement Sam Lewis for their partnership and advocacy.
Priestess of Twerk is a National Performance Network (NPN) Creation & Development Fund project co-commissioned by Links Hall, Brava for Women in the Arts, HERE Arts Center, Oregon Shakespeare Festival Association, Phoenix Hostel & Cultural Center, and NPN. Development of Priestess of Twerk was made possible through the HERE Artist Residency Program (HARP) and a National Theater Project Grant from the New England Foundation for the Arts.
ABOUT LINKS HALL
Aaliyah Christina, Artist Programs Manager & Associate Curator
Katie Collins, Marketing & Development Manager
Giau Truong, Production Manager & Associate Curator
Stephanie Pacheco, Executive Director
For 42 years, Links Hall has played a pivotal role in Chicago, encouraging artistic innovation and public engagement by maintaining a facility and providing flexible programming for the research, development, and presentation of new work in the performing arts. Founded in 1978 by experimental choreographers, Bob Eisen, Carol Bobrow, and Charlie Vernon, Links became a National Performance Network partner in 1998 and received a MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions in 2016. Links Hall supports multidisciplinary artists through residencies, festivals, subsidized rentals, and other resources for performers at every stage of their career.
Links Hall programming is made possible by artists, audiences, and support from: Arts Midwest GIG Fund, Association of Performing Arts Professionals, Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs & Special Events, Exelon, Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, Heather B. Henson Fund/Puppet Slam Network, Illinois Arts Council Agency, JPMorgan Chase, Microsoft, National Performance Network, The Charlie Vernon Performance Fund at the Evanston Community Foundation, The Jentes Family Foundation, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, MacArthur Fund for Culture, Equity, and the Arts at Prince, The Martha Struthers Farley & Donald C. Farley, Jr. Family Foundation, The Prince Charitable Trust, and The Weasel Fund.