BWW Previews: SONG OF MYSELF: THE WHITMAN PROJECT - A Capital Fringe One-Man Show that Contains Multitudes

July 6
10:48 AM 2014
BWW Previews: SONG OF MYSELF: THE WHITMAN PROJECT - A Capital Fringe One-Man Show that Contains Multitudes

I've had a love affair with poetry that reaches back over 40 years, years before my career as an educator and theatre artist. In fact, I first got into theatre with the idea of performing Lost Son by poet Theodore Roethke.

My newest affair is with filmmaking, however, as a performer, director and creator. That's why when I was wrestling with the conundrum of how to reveal the essence of Whitman's Song of Myself--our individual identities as an empathetic experience of everyone around us--I turned to film as a vehicle.

I went back and forth between Song of Myself as an ensemble piece or as a solo show. The empathetic angle begged for the solo; the collective result demanded an ensemble. The solution: a short film with a "cast of thousands."

Near the end of the poem Whitman penned the line: "I contain multitudes." I took that section of the poem and scripted it for a cast of 60+ people.

"Whitman's landscape of America is deeply personal," emphasized Elizabeth Bruce, the film's casting director. "So, in the spirit of that intimacy we drew from The Performing Knowledge Project's own dynamic creative community."

BWW Previews: SONG OF MYSELF: THE WHITMAN PROJECT - A Capital Fringe One-Man Show that Contains MultitudesArtists, activists, community organizers, language teachers, senior citizens, yoga instructors, first graders, architects, IT specialists, lawyers, jewelry makers, high schoolers, writers and a bevy of poets make up the ensemble of Song of Myself. Plus, there are more than a dozen different languages spoken, creating the tapestry that is contemporary Washington.

As a result, I Contain Multitudes (a short film in two parts) was born.

Young DC filmmaker Chad Lawrence worked on the film as well as the interdisciplinary piece's other montages. Original music by DC musician John McGrath compliments and unifies each line in the collective voice of the film.

Historical photographs by a collection of artists, contemporary photographs by Francisco Rosario, original flute compositions by Matt "SwampGuinee" Miller and contemporary adaptations of musical classics by Doug Fraser round out the interdisciplinary nature of this world premiere performance.

Additionally, well-known Washington theatre artist Holly Twyford acts as the show's directorial consultant. Elliot Lanes designs sound and lights and serves as production manager. Elizabeth Bruce designs costumes.

Song of Myself: The Whitman Project opens Thursday, July 10, at 9:15 pm at Caos on F Street, which is located at 823 F St. NW, Second Floor. Performances will also take place on Sunday, July 13th at noon; Sunday, July 20th at 7:15pm; Wednesday, July 23rd at 7pm; and Saturday, July 26th at 4:00pm. Tickets and Fringe Festival passes are available at, or by calling 866-811-4111.

For more information, please visit

Photo Credit: John Chambers in the film, I CONTAIN MULTITUDES. Credit: Performing Knowledge Project.

Washington, DC THEATER Stories | Shows

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Robert Michael Oliver Poet, Performer, Theatre Artist, Playwright, Educator, Writer--Robert Michael Oliver, Ph.D., has been involved in the DC arts scene since the 1980s, when he co-founded The Sanctuary Theatre in the old sanctuary of Calvary United Methodist Church. Since those fierce days in Columbia Heights, he has earned his doctorate in theatre from University of Maryland, raised two wonderful children, and seen more theatre as a reviewer over the last two years than he saw in the previous thirty. He now co-directs, along with his wife Elizabeth Bruce, the Sanctuary's Performing Knowledge Project, which organizes a host of writing and performance workshops, plus Mementos: Poetry and Performance for Seniors, a yearly literature-in-performance Fringe Festival show, as well as Performetry--a monthly poetry and prose performance event at DC's community arts & culture center BloomBars.


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