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“This Other World” Stages Richard Wright Haiku

“Keep Straight Down This Block. Then Turn Right Where You Will Find…”

Terry Jones | 3/20/2015, 11:48 a.m. | Updated on 3/20/2015, 11:48 a.m.
Xavier University’s Performance Studies Laboratory presents “This Other World,” a site-specific performance developed around the posthumously published haiku of Richard ...

Xavier University’s Performance Studies Laboratory presents “This Other World,” a site-specific performance developed around the posthumously published haiku of Richard Wright. The show runs March 26 – 28th at 6 PM, outdoors in the sculpture garden at the Xavier Art Village (3517 Lowerline Street). Weaving Wright’s haiku with scenes from Native Son and Black Boy, “This Other World” explores the author’s writing process, formative experiences with race identity, and iconic scenes from his literature. All performances are free and open to the public, but seating is limited. For additional information or ticket reservations, contact xuperformancestudieslaboratory@gmail.com.

In the final two years of his life while living in France, Wright composed thousands of haiku, from which he arranged 817 for publication. Haiku: The Last Poems of an American Icon was published posthumously in 1998. Adapted and directed by Ross Louis from a broad range of source materials, “This Other World” features two Xavier students (Thomas Nash and Mia Ruffin) in a performance that examines the relationship between Wright’s haiku and his earlier fiction and nonfiction. Drawing heavily on archival materials obtained from the Richard Wright collection at the Beinecke Rare Manuscript and Book Library at Yale University, the script includes haiku drafts and personal correspondence.

Staged outdoors, “This Other World” incorporates visual and physical elements of Xavier’s Art Village, while considering several questions about translating Wright’s haiku into performance. How might a larger body of 4,000 haiku be curated into performance text? How does Wright represent place within his haiku, especially rural Southern places? How do the values of the haiku genre guide decisions about space, time and movement in a performance of Wright’s work?

“This Other World” is the third event of the Performance Studies Laboratory’s 2014-2015 season, which included “Here Is Where You Turn Back” in October 2014 and the Patti Pace Performance Festival in February 2015. A Student Performance Showcase will close the season on April 16, 2015. The Performance Studies Laboratory, launched in 2013, is an interdisciplinary working group of Xavier faculty with training and backgrounds in Performance Studies. Lab co-founders Lisa Flanagan, Ross Louis, and Robin Vander teach courses, mentor student research, and collaborate with other faculty on performance-based projects. Other faculty collaborators include Liz Edgecomb, Kimberly Chandler, and Ron Bechet. Performance Studies is often referred to as an embodied way of knowing, a creative approach to scholarship that allows us to make sense of ourselves and others. The Performance Studies Laboratory studies performance in contexts such as literature, cultural ritual and rites of passage, identity construction, civic engagement and political actions, and visual and material culture, among others.