In the latest full production from writer-director and generative artist Nehprii Amenii, humanity died because it didn’t listen to its own heart and did everything to make itself disappear. An octopus named Akashi could donate one of its three hearts to create what would hopefully be a more evolved and sentient human. But Akashi isn’t sure he wants to do that – he finds life is better without humans.
Told through the windows of a sunken submarine, using images of the human heart and a hybrid of puppet styles, “HUMAN” is a 60-minute interactive multimedia performance installation for audiences young and old.
“HUMAN” has one week left (see info below) and is doing a fantastic run at the Wortham Center for Performing Arts. Audiences loved the play. One said that “HUMAN” is a show that every child and family in the world must watch. Another person said it was magical and she was transported as soon as she entered the theatre. The public thanked Amenii and for creating such a beautiful and meaningful work. A recent school group present said it was the best thing they had seen in their entire lives.
Shana Adams, former director of community engagement at Wortham, reached out to Amenii saying ‘HUMAN’ was “beautiful. As soon as I walked into the theater space, I felt transported underwater. The design of space, the story, the songs, the moments of meaning, irony, laughter and the children’s responses to the good humans brought into the world – it was all beautifully done,” Shana said. “Thank you for making this labor of love exist.”
“Nehprii has assembled an incredible team who, between them, have Broadway, Off-Broadway, and regional credits, Drama Desk Awards, and the imagination, sensitivity, and creativity to guide young people and their adults through an exploration timely and ultimately joyful hope in our current moment,” said Abby Felder, Director of Art Production for Asheville Creative Arts.
Written, co-produced and directed by Amenii, “HUMAN” features original music by Martha Redbone and Aaron Whitby with lyrics by Nehprii Amenii, Martha Redbone and Aaron Whitby; choreography by Amparo “Chigui” Santiago; lights, projections and environment design by Marie Yokoyama; original soundscapes by electronic composer Joo Won Park; and puppet design and construction by Nehprii Amenii and Dan Jones, April Tillies and Jorge Ariel Blanco Muñoz, with early prototype puppets by Tarish “Jeghetto” Pipkins. Musical direction support is provided by Gina Jones and Brenda Gambill. Dramaturgy by Dr. Allison Curseen and Philip Santos Schaffer.
As an artist and educator, Amenii now uses theater that includes young audiences as another approach to the classroom.
“I am interested in moving the conversations and lessons that typically need to take place at the edges of the curriculum and lesson plans to the forefront of learning. Embedding those lessons in storytelling allows me to do that,” said Amenii. She added that there are many ways to approach social change, and this is her way. Amenii says she wants to “make a revolution through the imagination”.
“I am grateful to Asheville Creative Arts in North Carolina and New Victory Theater in New York for supporting the launch and development of such a work,” said Amenii. She noted that for some time she had been concerned about the concept of humanity and humanity being lost while noticing that children were interacting more with machines rather than people. “I wondered: what happens when the only textures we know about are flat screens? How can children tell the difference between a human and a robot when most of their interactions happen with the robot? And at this point, how do you teach that one lives and feels and the other doesn’t? she asked. “HUMAN” is his answer to these questions, providing a space for audiences of all ages to explore humanity, touch, and interconnectedness while bringing hope in a time when it is badly needed.
“Ultimately, everything I do — my art, my process, my approach — is about this interconnectedness of humanity and connection to our own hearts,” Amenii said.
Amenii is the Artistic Director of Khunum Productions, a New York-based production company that produces highly visual narrative productions that combine the personal, the social, and the magical to create experiences that transform the human heart, and therefore our society. . Khunum Productions is a “Creative Anthropology” platform. This means that he is interested in studying what makes us human and the interconnectedness of all people and things. Her work and working process aim to deepen human connectedness – with each other and with ourselves. Khunum Productions is not interested in art that involves the human. Thus, the people involved in the process and their individual needs are prioritized. The company believes in process and Nefer (beauty). He strives to make the artistic process of creating together as beautiful as his productions.
Amenii also said that “at this time, we are particularly interested in the excavations and reconstruction of African people, of the diaspora, who have gone through a unique process of cultural erasure. In the same way as an artist of the Archaeological restoration uses chemicals and swabs.To preserve and care for cultural objects, we use imagination, storytelling, personal storytelling, movement and puppets to attempt to restore what has been damaged in humanity .”
Because of this, and as a means of re-sketching erasure, the work is imbued with concepts from African spirituality and philosophy. Amenii pointed out that “It’s not ‘The Little Mermaid.’ It’s not like, ‘Yippee! Under the Sea!”
On the contrary, Yemi, the mermaid of the story, is based on “Mami Wata” or “Yemaya”, the mother goddess of the ocean in Santería, an Afro-Caribbean religion practiced worldwide. Nacci, the seahorse featured in the piece, is based on “Fibonacci”, the mathematical equation found in nature – and on which the Dogon people of Mali built their dwellings and celebrations. Akashi, the octopus, takes its name from the Akashic Records, a philosophical concept believed to be the collection of all universal events, thoughts, words, emotions and intentions that have ever occurred in the past, present or future – of all entities, not just humans.
The “HUMAN” cast includes Rebekah Babelay, Kaylyn Carter, Josh C., April Tillies, Khalilah Smith, Olympea and Tippin (no last names).
“HUMAN” will take place at the Tina McGuire Theater at the Wortham Center for the Performing Arts at 18 Biltmore Ave. in Asheville, North Carolina, through May 15. Public performances will be at 3 p.m. tomorrow (Sunday), 7 p.m. Friday, Saturday 1 at 3 p.m. and Sunday, May 15 at 3 p.m. All tickets are payable at will (collected after the performance). Seats can be reserved in advance via a form on the ACA website: https://ashevillecreativearts.org/mainstage-productions/. For more information about the Wortham Center for the Performing Arts, visit https://www.worthamarts.org. Email [email protected] or call (914) 830-3000 if you are a school or community group looking to book a weekday school matinee.
About Asheville Creative Arts
Asheville’s award-winning and critically acclaimed theater dedicated to creating works for children of all ages, Asheville Creative Arts was founded in 2013 and produces, presents and creates innovative works for multi-generational, multi-ethnic and multi-dimensional audiences, performed by adult actors. Past productions include “Charlotte’s Web,” “The Warp & The Weft,” “Bugs!” And “Slug & Snail”. “ACA apparently produces children’s theater, but the company’s ambitious works appeal to young people and adults alike,” according to the Mountain Xpress. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/ashevillecreativearts and/or https://www.instagram.com/acatheatre/, and/or email [email protected] or call (914) 830-3000.
More information about Khunum Productions can be found at www.khunumproductions.com