Tantrum Festival Features ‘Blackbone,’ ‘Beyond Words,’ More Aug. 16-24

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Tantrum Theater will present its first annual Tantrum Theater Summer Festival—a theater-focused, multi-disciplinary event over two weekends, featuring world-renowned artists at venues located on the Ohio University campus.

In its first weekend, Friday, August 16 and Saturday, August 17 at 8 p.m., the festival will spotlight Bill Bowers in Beyond Words at the E. E. Baker Theater, Kantner Hall and the Affrilachian Poets in Black Bone: 25 Years of the Affrilachian Poets at the Forum Theater, RTV Building.

“The Affrilachian Poets have become a recognized force in the national literary community, publishing dozens of highly respected collections, winning some of the most coveted awards in Literature including the Donald Hall Prize for Poetry, Ernest Gaines Award for Literary Excellence, NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work in Poetry, and the American Book Award for Poetry, but more importantly sparking a movement that has required a redefinition of Appalachia and the recognition that people of color are part of the past and present of the 13 state region,” said Frank X Walker, who coined the term “Affrilachia” and founded the artistic collective in 1991, in an interview with WOUB.

“I haven’t really had an opportunity to perform for Athens in the way I do for other audiences when I travel, especially among such diverse and familiar company, so this will be a treat for me to air out a side of my personality I don’t often get to when I’m in front of the classroom,” said poet and playwright Dr. Bianca Spriggs. “I’m looking forward to introducing Athens to the Affrilachian Poets in person, mostly because this is my first artistic family which I got to know first while I was in undergrad as a young writer, and then a few years later, when I was invited to become a member. It feels full circle, since I’ve left the town I was reared as an artist, to finally be able to introduce some of the most influential people in my life to the campus that’s become my new chapter. It feels like a significant occasion and in a lot of ways it’ll feel like a family reunion we get to share with OU.”

“Audiences will walk away from this reading with a more insightful understanding that Appalachia is not a homogenous area of unlettered, unwashed masses,” said Spriggs. “So often unfairly depicted by mainstream media and culture, [our region] is vibrant and complex, encompassing urban areas as much as rural, and houses a kaleidoscope of voices that represent the entire stretch of the thirteen states.”

To add to the significance of Blackbone with the Tantrum Theater Summer Festival hosting these poets, on Thursday, August 15 at 7 p.m., The Athena Cinema will screen Coal Black Voices, a documentary that provides a glimpse into the history and work of the Affrilachian Poets, as well as a vivid depiction of life in the American Black South and Appalachian region.

Beyond Words creates the scene for a cherishable memoir filled with music, monologues and mime in this exploratory investigation of the silence surrounding gender in our culture today. Portraying the evolution from a boy to a man, Bowers draws his characters from real life and moves beyond simple anecdotes to create an inclusive montage that celebrates humanity.

On Saturday, August 17 from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m., there will be a community-centric writing workshop hosted by the Affrilachian Poets in the Baker University Center (room location to be determined). This is open to the public and built for the community to connect and work with the poets themselves, sharing in their art with the aim of developing both voice and writing style. Information on this will be forthcoming.

The following weekend, Friday, August 23 and Saturday, August 24 at 9 p.m., Berlin-based theater troupe, Gob Squad will take the stage in the streets, onstage, and on-screen in its unpredictable mixed media performance, Super Night Shot, at the E. E. Baker Theater, Kantner Hall.

Super Night Shot is a unique multimedia performance event. The actual filming begins just one hour before audiences arrive at the theater. That is when Gob Squad has a night out on the town with cameras rolling constantly. During this time, four performers document what happens to them and the movie showcases their journeys from each perspective. The streets become the film set. The local community becomes extras, actors, and helpers. Things like cigarette butts and trash cans are the props, while the graffiti and public art throughout the town become the backdrop. This is the movie of a lifetime, unique and quintessential to the space in which it takes place.