Performance | THE ARSONIST
The Arsonist integrates theatrical storytelling with the principles of fire science, movement, visual projections, trap music and a live cello score to explore the personal implications of our social and political theories surrounding justice and safety in America. We hear the voices and stories of the women that Veronica interviews and “paints”: A Guyanese-American heiress who recalls the impact of sugarcane field labor on her father’s body and her family’s legacy and migration, a Congolese-American woman whose family was directly impacted by Leopold II’s occupation, A Mexican woman activist who advocated for the rights of Latinx farm workers during the 1960s, and two Senegalese teenage girls who’ve recently emigrated to the US and are navigating life in present-day Harlem, NY. The Arsonist employs an innovative, experimental, multidisciplinary approach to exploring the vulnerability of black bodies, social injustice, racialized violence and the personal implications of aggressive policing, across the imagined boundaries of “race” and gender.
Mai Sennaar is the writer and conceptualist of this multidisciplinary presentation of The Arsonist. She is co-founder and creative director of MaiWrites Productions, a performing arts (MWP Live) and cinematic production company. The company produces cinema as well as live performances for museums, theaters and other art institutions. Her film Wax Lovers’ Playlist was an official selection of the HBO sponsored 2018 Martha Vineyard African American Film Festival and premiered at the AFI Silver movie theater as part of the Color of Conversation Film Series. She is an alum of NYU Tisch and has been featured in the Baltimore Sun, the Bronx Times, Uptown Magazine to name some media outlets. The Classical Theatre of Harlem, the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, the National Black Theatre, NYU Goldberg Theatre are among venues that have presented her stage works.
Sam Vernon creates the visual projections featured in The Arsonist. Sam earned her MFA in Painting/Printmaking from Yale University in 2015 and her BFA from The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in 2009. Her installations combine xeroxed drawings, photographs, paintings and sculptural components in an exploration of personal narrative and identity. She uses installation and performance to honor the past while revising historical memory. Vernon has most recently exhibited with We Buy Gold, Interstitial Gallery, Coney Art Walls curated by Jeffrey Deitch, Brooklyn Museum, Queens Museum, Fowler Museum at UCLA and Seattle Art Museum. Sam lives in Oakland, CA and teaches printmaking as an Assistant Professor at California College of the Arts (CCA).
Diana Wharton is the composer of the live score of the Arsonist. Her work as a composer has garnered her such prestigious awards as the Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship, National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), Maryland State Arts Council, Meet the Composer Grant and New Music America. Her work has been glowingly reviewed by the New York Times, Washington Post, Baltimore Sun, Downbeat Magazine and Essence Magazine. Abbey Lincoln called her the heir to Nina Simone. A founding member of the internationally renowned vocal ensemble, Sweet Honey in the Rock, her songs have opened for Bill Withers and other luminaries. She is the composer for the Broadway hit: “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf” among other theatrical works. She is a graduate of Howard University. She is the Executive Director of Piano for Youth, a Baltimore-based, Bright Minds grant award-winning piano tutelage organization that reaches hundreds of students annually through its public programs and performances, summer camp and year-round lessons.
Public programs at MoAD are supported in part by Target.
This program is presented in conjunction with the current exhibition Coffee, Rhum, Sugar & Gold: A Postcolonial Paradox, on view May 8 – August 11, 2019.