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INTERVIEW

Dreamscape – Exploring race and justice in America

Rickerby Hinds brings award-winning play to Schloss Leopoldskron for SSASA 15

Rickerby Hinds at the Salzburg Seminar for American Studies Association

Rickerby Hinds at the Salzburg Seminar for American Studies Association

Mirva Villa | 29.09.2017

Ahead of the 15th symposium of the Salzburg Seminar American Studies Association (SSASA), participants were warned to expect a “highly participatory” five-day program. Daily thematic presentations, plenary discussions, and panels on topical issues were all designed for participants to debate life and justice in the U.S. at a theoretical and analytical level. A special performance of Rickerby Hinds’ Dreamscape in Schloss Leopoldskron’s Great Hall midway through the program helped bring these issues further to life.

The play depicts the final moments of a young African-American woman shot by the police while sleeping in her car. Mixing the elements of beat-boxing, hip hop, dance and poetry, the award-winning performance tells the life story of Myiesha Mills, who dreams through the impact of the 12 bullets that kill her. The play is a meditation and reimagining of the shooting of Tyisha Miller in 1998 in Riverside, California.

Hinds, the writer and director behind Dreamscape, revealed the incident inspired him to tell a wider story. “In 2004, I decided to write a play that would address that issue of the relationship between the African-American community and the police,” Hinds said.

“I went back to the Tyisha Miller incident and decided that this will be a good vehicle for exploring this issue, for a couple of reasons. One, because she was a young woman, and two, because there was enough information for there to be a dramatic exploration of the relationship, so it wasn’t so black and white. There were gray areas to allow the conversation to be a little more nuanced.”

 

Prior to the performance, participants at this year’s SSASA symposium had already begun to reflect on legal rights, justice, and racial issues in the U.S. The fact Dreamscape was performed at a symposium discussing the very issues his play was addressing made Hinds a “little bit more nervous than usual.”

Hinds said, “As the director, you’re always thinking about how the play would land on your audience who have studied these issues, who are scholars and experts on the field. Plus, we had met our audience, so we knew them! It’s very unusual!”

Dreamscape’s current cast includes Natali Micciche and John “Faahz” Merchant. Both have been performing the show for about five years, performing both in the U.S. and abroad.

Discussing her performance as Myiesha, Micciche said: “It was absolutely beautiful. It was a great interlude, sitting in at the presentations, talking about this subject and the topics, and then go and perform, because the energy is heightened around the subject and everybody is fully invested.

“The reception was great. It’s more than I could ask for. It’s always moving. In a space where I can see the audience it’s super effective because you watch people and their emotions. Afterwards it was just great to hear feedback on my movement and my artistry.”

Merchant, who played the role of a police officer and a dispassionate coroner, incorporated his beat-boxing talents to help create the play’s unique soundscape.

“It was probably one of the most exciting and exhilarating feelings”, Merchant said. He added it was great to see their work transcend across different audiences - even 6,000 miles away from home. “It’s a great feeling because it means that our work over the past years has been doing what it’s supposed to do.”


The Salzburg Global program Life and Justice in America: Implications of the New Administration is part of Salzburg Global’s multi-year series Salzburg Seminar American Studies Association (SSASA). More information on the session can be found here. You can follow all of the discussions on Twitter by following the hashtag #SSASA.

29.09.2017 Category: IMAGINATION, JUSTICE, SALZBURG UPDATES, SSASA
Mirva Villa