PARADISE RETURN TO AJA
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Arts/Theater
Indi McCasey | | (510) 306-2461
Bay Area performers imagine a world that centers a queer, Black mythology in PARADISE: Return to Aja
SAN FRANCISCO, CA (May 3, 2017) - Approaching its 5th annual production as part of the National Queer Arts Festival, Topsy-Turvy Queer Circus, presents PARADISE: Return to Aja June 1-3 at the Brava Theater (2781 24th Street San Francisco, CA). This multidisciplinary performance features aerial and acrobatic dance, film, vogue, and original musical scores led by a local cast of 16 Oakland-based performing artists and featuring former Cirque du Soleil performer Marshall Jarreau.
PARADISE: Return to Aja is the second annual installment of an epic trilogy told over three consecutive years. Created by Topsy-Turvy Queer Circus Artistic Director, India Davis, PARADISE follows the journey of a fallen Angel who must navigate a world of demigods and magic on her quest to return home. Drawing from traditional spiritual and cultural archetypes, Davis and the cast of PARADISE weave together a new mythology that centers queer, Black imagination.
“One of my biggest inspirations for PARADISE is the Wiz and other surreal Black fantasy productions,” says Davis. “I wanted to create something spectacular and fantastical that reflected queer Black and queer of color experiences. It’s an incredible opportunity working with a cast of such talented performers to bring this story to life.”
“PARADISE is urgent and necessary,” insists Assistant Director Gabriel Christian. “We need to flood our ears and airwaves with queer hymns and mythologies. Every. Day.”
According to PARADISE performer The Lady Ms. Vagina Jenkins, “This production is crucial because #TheatreSoWhite. It’s not often that I get to see Black theatre that plays with Black fantasy elements. The ways in which Blackness is opressed in this world lead many artists to create new worlds - worlds that are fantasy right now, but are part of the creation of a pro-Black tomorrow.”
About the Production Crew:
India Davis, a trained acrobat, aerialist and pole dancer combines physical feats with multidisciplinary art forms to illustrate the breadth of her inspirations. She is a founding member, dancer and choreographer of Body Waves, a queer Black acrobatic dance collective that was based in Oakland from 2013-2015 and toured internationally. Davis is the current Artistic Director of Topsy-Turvy Queer Circus, part of the 2013-2017 National Queer Arts Festivals. Davis teaches popular aerial, pole and acrobatic classes throughout the Bay Area for queer people of color. Her visionary work is guided by themes of multi-dimensionality, spirit, and the link between legacy, timelessness and future manifestation through the body. Davis’ work has received from the Astraea Foundation, Horizons Foundation, San Francisco Arts Commission, California Arts Council, Left Tilt, and the Dancers’ Group CA$H Grant and is supported through the Queer Cultural Center.
Indi McCasey believes in the power of the arts as a catalyst for social change. Indi has spent over 20 years as an educator in experiential and informal learning environments with over a decade of non-profit program management experience in the fields of public access, violence prevention, and arts education. Indi holds an Ed.M from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and is on the faculty of the Alameda County Office of Education’s Integrated Learning Specialist Program and Harvard’s Project Zero Classroom, facilitating creative development trainings for educators. They co-founded two nationally touring physical theater ensembles in addition to being a former artistic member of Wise Fool New Mexico and the current Managing Director of Topsy-Turvy Queer Circus. Indi is a former artist-in-residence at Harvard’s Project Zero and a recipient of the 2013 Endeavor Foundation for the Arts Artist Award.
Gabriel Christian (t(he)y;(t)him) is an unholy performer, poet, and archivist born in NYC. Apart from four regional and Off-Broadway productions, he's supported and performed in works from WePlayers (2015), artist Tamar Ettun's The Moving Company (2014) and The Workcenter of Jerzy Grotowski and Thomas Richards (2013-2014). As of 2015, they have primarily served as their femme ego-companion Derrierykah Badu (IG: derrierykah.badu) at The Stud and Aunt Charlie's in San Francisco, CA, as well as having exhibited in the collaborative show “Property Laws" at Madame of the Arts in Minneapolis, MN. They were one of the nine flagship queer performance artists in residence at the Destiny Arts Center Queer Emerging Artist Residency (QEAR) in Spring 2016.
Marshall Jarreau is a professional dancer and circus aerialist. He began his dance training in the BFA dance program at the University of Colorado in Boulder. From Colorado, he began performing around the world with Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines for 5 years and was also a top finalist on the first season of FOX’s So You Think You Can Dance. In 2010, Marshall began formal training as an aerialist at the New England Center for Circus Arts and, afterward, was featured as the Walrus character and dancer in Cirque Du Soleil’s LOVE. While in Las Vegas, he returned to school to get his certification in massage therapy and, in his spare time, took 1st place in the Men’s Divison of the 2013 Pole Expo. He is currently teaching dance, circus, and Zumba classes in the San Antonio area and performing throughout the US.
Kiebpoli “Black*Acrobat” Calnek is an actress, aerialist, and director. She is a graduate of CCNY, a member of the Lincoln Center Directors Lab, and of the Actors’ Equity Association. Her works have received generous funding and support from Elizabeth Streb, Astrea Foundation, Asian Arts Initiative, and The New York Foundation for the Arts. Kiebpoli is the proud founder and artistic director of Black*Acrobat, a social enterprise that seeks to empower fringe communities through the vertical world of aerial acrobatics with devised theatrical performances. Our shows tackle provocative dark subjects and re-imagine stories of the black diaspora. Fusing arts & activism by depicting what seems impossible, Black*Acrobat endeavors to educate, inspire, and sustain community (r)evolution.
A homegrown San Francisco treat, Honey Mahogany gained worldwide fame as a cast member on Season 5 of the reality television cult phenomenon RuPaul's Drag Race. Since Drag Race, Honey has been hard at work making music and making notable appearances on the theatrical stage as well as the silver screen. She was recently named San Francisco's Best Drag Cabaret performer by the Bay Area Reporter (2016) and has become a sought after performer and emcee across the country. Honey currently hosts her own drag show and RuPaul's Drag Race viewing party at the Midnight Sun in the Castro called Mahogany Mondays.
Brandon Kazen-Maddox is a professional American Sign Language (ASL) interpreterandblends the linguistics of ASL, the explosive qualities of acrobatics and the technique of various styles of dance to cultivate a new form of performance art he has named American Sign Language Acrobatic Dance, or ASLAD. Brandon has performed works of ASLAD in 2014 Bay Area Deaf as well as the Black Choreographer’s Festival through his performance company, Body.Language.Productions.
The Lady Ms. Vagina Jenkins is a performance artist, stand up comedian, designer/seamstress/milliner, writer, burlesque sensation and organizer of note. Ms. Jenkins is the Development Associate at the Queer Cultural Center and Coordinator for the National Queer Performing Arts Summit (August 18-21.2016). From her work with The National Femme Conference, to the Mondo Homo Music Festival-Atlanta and producing her own touring and local productions, she knows her way onstage and in that crucial behind-the-scenes work.
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