Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

White Snake Projects Announces Online Events Before DEATH BY LIFE

The opera explores the intersection of systemic racism and mass incarceration using texts written by incarcerated and formerly incarcerated writers.

White Snake Projects Announces Online Events Before DEATH BY LIFE

White Snake Projects have announced three online events leading up to the premiere of their new virtual opera, Death By Life.

Conceived as a monument of support for the Black Lives Matter movement in the wake of the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, the opera explores the intersection of systemic racism and mass incarceration using texts written by incarcerated and formerly incarcerated writers and their families. Kicking off the online events is the interactive forum Art as Transformation: Music and Drama for Incarcerated Youth on March 30.

Then, a virtual exhibition and roundtable conversation called Art and Imagination Inside Prisons follows on April 6, and a panel discussion titled Freedom-Making in an Age of Mass Incarceration on April 13. The latter two events will be moderated by Death By Life collaborative partner Alice Kim, Director of Human Rights Practice at the University of Chicago's Pozen Center, which she joined in 2018 to launch a Human Rights Lab focused on mass incarceration and racialized policing. She also leads the Prison + Neighborhood Arts/Education Project's Think Tank on long-term sentencing practices.

Registration for all three events is free, and links to the events and the opera itself can be found here.

Art as Transformation: Music and Drama for Incarcerated Youth explores art as a means of transformation for people who have experienced or are experiencing incarceration, and it will include guided activities in addition to the discussion. Presenting partners include Fifth House Ensemble, a Chicago-area group that harnesses the collaborative spirit of chamber music to reach beyond the traditionally perceived limits of classical music; Oakdale Community Choir, which provides choral singing experiences for men at the Iowa Medical and Classification Center (Oakdale Prison) and for singers in the community who have an interest in learning more about issues in the prison system; and Storycatchers Theatre, which helps youth in the juvenile justice system tell their stories through musical theatre. Dr. Kính T. Vu, an assistant professor of music at Boston University, sums up by exploring connections between music education and involuntary or forced human displacement. The forum will be moderated by Melissa Ngan, the founder and former CEO of Fifth House Ensemble and recently appointed President and CEO of American Composers Orchestra.

Art and Imagination Inside Prisons is a conversation with formerly incarcerated artists about the creative processes involved in making, learning, and teaching art in prisons. Featured guests are architectural crochet artist Carole Alden; visual artist Renaldo Hudson, whose painting Freedom Cost serves as the banner art for Death By Life (see above); photographer and New York University doctoral student Michelle Daniel (Jones); visual artist Jesse Krimes; and Damon Locks, a teaching artist with the Prison + Neighborhood Arts/Education Project. In conjunction with this event, a virtual gallery of art by incarcerated artists will be hosted on White Snake Projects' website. Alice Kim will moderate the discussion. About the importance of teaching behind bars, she explains: "Education is a human right and everyone deserves access to it. We are all lifelong learners and teachers, and for me, teaching inside prisons is about building community with people who are behind the prison wall. The logic of the prison system is to effectively disappear those who are entrapped in its cages. Teaching inside is one way to refuse carceral logic." Freedom-Making in an Age of Mass Incarceration is also a panel discussion moderated by Kim, followed by a Q&A. Panelists are Norris Henderson, Founder and Executive Director, Voice of the Experienced (VOTE); Toussaint Losier, Assistant Professor of Afro-American Studies at UMass-Amherst and editor of Rethinking the American Prison Movement; Erica Meiners, Professor of Education and Women's and Gender Studies at Northeastern Illinois University and author of For the Children? Protecting Innocence in a Carceral State; Romarilyn Ralston, Program Director of Project Rebound and an organizer with the California Coalition for Women Prisoners; and Beth Richie, Professor of Criminology, Law and Justice and African American Studies at the University of Illinois-Chicago and author of Arrested Justice: Black Women, Violence, and America's Prison Nation.

White Snake Projects is an activist opera company founded and led by Cerise Jacobs, an immigrant woman of color. Committed to integrating social activism with original opera, the company partners with other activists to cross-promote important social issues, and it redefines how opera is made by involving a variety of people from the community. It is also innovative, telling stories across multiple platforms and formats using 21st-century digital technologies, including an audio plugin - whose development it fostered - that enables live synchronous performance from remote locations. White Snake Projects was inaugurated in September 2016 with Ouroboros Trilogy, a trio of grand operas including the Pulitzer Prize-winning Madame White Snake, and continued with REV. 23 (2017), PermaDeath (2018), I Am a Dreamer Who No Longer Dreams (2019), and the groundbreaking digital opera Alice in the Pandemic (2020), which was acquired by the Library of Congress for its Performing Arts COVID-19 Response Collection.

Cerise Jacobs: Death By Life community events and world premiere

March 30

Art as Transformation: Music and Drama for Incarcerated Youth

Participants:
Fifth House Ensemble
Oakdale Community Choir
Storycatchers Theatre
Dr. Kính T. Vu
Moderator:
Melissa Ngan, President and CEO, American Composers Orchestra


April 6

Art and Imagination Inside Prisons

Featured artists:
Carole Alden, architectural crochet artist
Renaldo Hudson, visual artist
Michelle Daniel (Jones), photographer and New York University doctoral student
Jesse Krimes, visual artist
Damon Locks, teaching artist with the Prison + Neighborhood Arts/Education Project
Moderator:
Alice Kim, Director of Human Rights Practice, Pozen Center, University of Chicago

April 13

Freedom-Making in an Age of Mass Incarceration

Participants:
Norris Henderson, Founder and Executive Director, Voice of the Experienced (VOTE)
Toussaint Losier, editor, Rethinking the American Prison Movement
Erica Meiners, author of For the Children? Protecting Innocence in a Carceral State
Romarilyn Ralston, Program Director, Project Rebound; California Coalition for Women Prisoners
Beth Richie, author of Arrested Justice: Black Women, Violence, and America's Prison Nation

Moderator:
Alice Kim, Director of Human Rights Practice, Pozen Center, University of Chicago

May 20, 22, 25

Death By Life (world premiere)
Online on digital platforms

Cast
Tiana Sorenson, soprano
Lucia Bradford, mezzo-soprano
Aaron Blake, tenor
Nicholas Davis, baritone

Creative team
Composers: Jacinth Greywoode, Leila Adu-Gilmore, Jonathan Bailey Holland, David Sanford, Mary D. Watkins
Texts: Raul Dorado, Mary L. Johnson, Monica Cosby, Andrew Phillips, Phil Hartsfield, Joe Dole, Devon Terrell, Eric Blackmon
Creator and Librettist: Cerise Lim Jacobs
Director: Kimille Howard
Music Director: Tian Hui Ng

Technologies
Audio Engineer: Jon Robertson
Director of Innovation: Curvin Huber
Projections Designer/Broadcast Engineer: Paul Deziel
Lighting: Becky Marsh

The Victory Players
Violin: Elly Toyoda
Cello: Clare Monfredo
Clarinet: Eric Schultz
Piano: Nathan Ben-Yehuda


Featured on Stage Door

Shoutouts, Classes, and More from Your Favorite Broadway Stars

Related Articles View More Atlanta Stories

More Hot Stories For You