Francesa Harper's LOOK OF FEELING Set for Susan Batson Studio Theater, Now thru 5/18
The Look of Feeling, a theatrical production of a one-woman show starring acclaimed artist Francesca Harper, premieres in a very special intimate limited engagement during May 2014 in New York City's theatre district. Conceived and written by Francesca and helmed by Directorial Consultant Susan Batson, The Look of Feeling is an epic saga of true stories told through dance and song about a woman, Denise Jefferson (1944-2010) - an American dance pioneer and the star's mother.
In her first solo theatrical production, Francesca reveals the woman behind her mother, and her struggle with independence, feminism, single motherhood, civil rights, men, and ultimately, cancer. Francesca takes us on her mother's courageous journey starting with her family's flight from slavery in Coffeeville, Mississippi, in the 1800s, then onto her husband's role as a prominent attorney during the civil rights movement in the 1960s, to becoming an internationally acclaimed dance educator as the founding Director of the Ailey School.
"She had this sense of fearlessness, which I loved," says Francesca. Channeling her mother's intrepidness, Francesca turns grief into an opportunity to recount her mother's life. "Sharing my mother's story on stage is a way for her life to teach us all something," explains Francesca. "Her inner complexities, her trials and tribulations and her authenticity are all universal life lessons that everyone can relate to."
In turns gut-wrenching and emotionally affective, surprisingly funny and totally relatable, The Look of Feeling provides a platform for Francesca to give a reflective, powerful performance - the performance of her career. By throwing in a few bright splashes of theatricality, in the form of glamorous costumes, startling introspective silences, as well as dabs of comedy, Francesca creates a colorful theatrical portrait that touches upon notable events and experiences of black Americans of the 20th century.
A bold and accomplished artist in her own right, Francesca has received rave reviews as a performer in Sweet Charity, The Producers, Fosse, and The Color Purple; as a singer and lyricist; and as a dancer/choreographer and director of her own modern dance company, The Francesca Harper Project. "The statuesque cleared eyed dancer sings the body electric...moves from innocence to experience with such grace." (New Yorker)
Harper is an internationally acclaimed multi-faceted artist. After being named Presidential Scholar in the Arts and performing at the White House, Harper performed soloist roles with the Dance Theater of Harlem and spent several years as a principal in William Forsythe's Ballet Frankfurt. Her Broadway credits include Fosse, The Producers, All Shook Up, The Frogs and the Tony Award winning treasure The Color Purple. Her Principal acting roles include starring opposite Molly Ringwald in Sweet Charity and performing the role of Judith originated on Broadway by Judith Jamison in Sophisticated Ladies.. She has also appeared in several productions with Anna Deavere Smith as a performer as well as being produced by Anna Deavere Smith for 50 Minutes with Harriet and Phillis, her collaboration with Pulitzer Prize winning writer and critic, Margo Jefferson. Harper has choreographed works for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Ailey II, Tanz Graz, Hubbard Street II, Dallas Black Dance Theater, and her own company, The Francesca Harper Project, which was founded in 2005. The Francesca Harper Project (FHP) has toured Internationally, including the Holland Dance Festival, and Venice Biennale. Her TV appearances include two episodes of Boardwalk Empire, David Letterman and The Oprah Winfrey Show. Harper also served as ballet consultant for the feature film Black Swan by Darren Aronofsky, starring Natalie Portman, who went on to win an Oscar.
Harper is an adjunct professor at New York University, Associate Professor at Barnard College, and continues the vital role of teacher and choreographer for The Ailey School, Fordham University's BFA Program and the Susan Batson Studio led by Award Winner Susan Batson. Most recently, she was also a featured performer in Zinnias - The Life of Clementine Hunter directed by Robert Wilson. She was also the recipient of the Innovation and Technology Award for Louis Vuitton Reconstruction 3.0 for New York Fashion Week 2013 at Lincoln Center, and was honored with a Living History Award during Black History Month in February 2013.
Photo by Breton Tyner-Bryan