Dixon Place Presents NEPTUNE
Timothy DuWhite is wary of the solo show.
"Part of my work has been thinking of how to make a solo show good," he says, smiling lightly. "I know a lot of poets who create solo shows and it's literally just a string of their poems connected. It's not theatricalized, it's just spoken word for a longer, extended amount of time. That's not what I wanted to do. I wanted to create an actual play first."
To be clear, DuWhite is a bona fide, proud, prolific spoken word poet. Poetry is embedded in his language. "Whatever I write, it's always poetic in some way," he says emphatically. He's had a lot of practice in defining and perfecting his poetry, having performed spoken word since his freshman year of college, but only just now is he becoming a theatre artist, and donning the roles of playwright and actor. His debut one-man show, Neptune, directed by Zhailon Levingston, will open its world premiere production at Dixon Place this Friday, and run every Friday and Saturday night for the rest of July.
DuWhite's extensive catalogue of spoken word poems are largely personal-he speaks as himself. But with Neptune, he does away with the autobiographical nature of his poems, and instead gives the audience a character: Wayne. "I want the audience to feel, 'This is not the Tim I know, this is a character, and this is a whole different world you've created."
Fittingly, Neptune is a play about discovering another world when the one we have is no longer suitable for living in. "I'd been meditating on the idea of being hard to love," he says, reflecting on his time developing the show. DuWhite found that many people around him were also struggling with this feeling of being unwanted, of being hard to love. Neptune, he says, was birthed from the desire to have a piece of work that speaks to this difficulty. "'Hard to love' was the idea," he says, "But then I started wondering, 'Ok, where is the place for us?"
Much of DuWhite's prior creative and educational and has revolved around de-stigmatizing the reality of living HIV positive. Wayne, the protagonist of Neptune, is HIV positive, and the play specifically revolves around his journey, lost on his way to a date with a mysterious other. In this way, DuWhite reinvents the fairytale tradition. "It's imagining getting to a place that we don't know is real yet."
DuWhite has created this place and this journey through collaboration with Zhailon Levingston, a director who DuWhite feels has completely transformed his poetic language into a piece of theatre. "You ever meet someone who's just so good at something? That's Zhailon with theater," DuWhite beams. "Zhailon gave me so many ideas, and he got exactly what I was trying to create."
What, exactly, Levingston and DuWhite have created together remains to be seen, but for DuWhite, it's important that audiences walk away changed and active. "The biggest thing I want people to get from Neptune is that we cannot be complacent in this world," he says. "Neptune talks about going to another place because we cannot live here anymore. I hope people get from it this need to question, to be curious, to unearth everyday."
Neptune opens Friday, July 13th and runs every Friday and Saturday for the rest of July at Dixon Place (161A Chrystie street). Tickets are available at the door and online for a reduced fee. Show times vary, and are listed on our website at dixonplace.org/performances/neptune.
Photo credit: Mark Hayes
Pictured: Timothy DuWhite