Interactive Multi-Media Play HUMAN Plays at Wortham Center for Performing Arts

The show is set to run until May 15th.

By: May. 08, 2022
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Interactive Multi-Media Play HUMAN Plays at Wortham Center for Performing Arts

In the latest full production from writer-director and generative artist Nehprii Amenii, humanity has died off because it failed to hearken to its own hearts and did everything correct to make itself extinct. An octopus named Akashi could donate one of his three hearts to bring about what would hopefully be a more evolved and sensitive human. But Akashi isn't sure he wants to do that - he finds life to be better without humans.

Told through the windows of a sunken submarine, using images of the human heart and a hybrid of puppetry styles, "HUMAN" is a 60-minute interactive multimedia performance installation for audiences both young and old.

"HUMAN" has one more week to go, (See the listings information below) and is having a fantastic run at the Wortham Center for Performing Arts. Audience members have loved the play. One stated that "HUMAN" is a show that needs to be seen by every child and family in the world. Another individual said it is magical and that they were transported the moment they stepped into the theater. The audience has thanked Amenii and for creating such a beautiful work full of meaning. A recent school group in attendance said it's the best thing they've seen in their entire life.

Shana Adams, former community engagement director at the Wortham, reached out to Amenii saying "HUMAN" was "beautiful. As soon as I walked into the theatre space, I felt transported underwater. The design of the space, the story, songs, moments of meaning, irony, laughter, and the children's responses to the good humans bring to the world - everything was beautifully done," Shana said. "Thank you for bringing this work of love into existence."

"Nehprii has brought together an incredible team who between them have Broadway, Off-Broadway and regional credits, Drama Desk Awards, and the imagination, sensitivity and creativity to guide young people and their adults through a timely, and in the end, joyful exploration of hope in our current moment," said Abby Felder, Asheville Creative Arts artistic producing director.

Written, co-produced and directed by Amenii, "HUMAN" features original music by Martha Redbone and Aaron Whitby with Lyrics by Nehprii Amenii, Martha Redbone and Aaron Whitby; choreography by Amparo "Chigui" Santiago; lights, projections and environment design by Marie Yokoyama; original sound scapes by electronic composer Joo Won Park; and puppet designs and construction by Nehprii Amenii and Dan Jones, April Tillies and Jorge Ariel Blanco Muñoz, with early puppet prototypes by Tarish "Jeghetto" Pipkins. Musical direction support is provided by Gina Jones and Brenda Gambill. Dramaturgy by Dr. Allison Curseen and Philip Santos Schaffer.

As both an artist and educator, Amenii is now using theater that includes young audiences as another approach to the classroom.

"I'm interested in moving the conversations and teachings that usually have to happen on edges of curriculum and lesson plans into the forefront of learning. Embedding these lessons into storytelling allows me to do this," Amenii said. She added that there are many ways to approach social change, and this is hers. Amenii says she's interested in "waging a revolution through the imagination."

"I'm grateful for North Carolina's Asheville Creative Arts and New York's New Victory Theater for supporting the launch and development of such a work," Amenii said. She noted that for quite some time, she has been concerned with the concept of humanity and humanness going extinct while noticing children interacting more with machines rather than with people. "I've wondered: What happens when the only textures we know are flat screens? How are children to know the difference between a human and a robot when most of their interaction is happening with the robot? And at that point, how do you teach that one is living and feeling and while the other isn't?" she asked. "HUMAN" is her response to these questions, offering a space for audiences of all ages to explore humanness, touch, and interconnectedness while providing hope during a time when it is greatly needed.

"Ultimately, everything I am doing - my art, my process, my approach - is about this interconnectedness of humanity and being connected to our own hearts," Amenii said.

Amenii is the artistic director of Khunum Productions, a New York City-based production company that produces highly visual, narrative-based productions that combine the personal, the social, and the magical to create experiences that transform the human heart, and thus our society. Khunum Productions is a platform for "Creative Anthropology." This means it is interested in the study of what makes us human, and the interconnectedness of all people and things. Its work and process of working aims to deepen human connectivity - to one another and to our own selves. Khunum Productions is not interested in art that drags the human along. Thus, the people involved in the process and their individual needs are priority. The company believes in process and Nefer (beauty). It strives to make the artistic process of creating together equally as beautiful as its productions.

Amenii also said that "At this point in time, we are particularly interested in the excavation and reconstruction of African peoples, of the diaspora, who have gone through a unique process of cultural erasure. The same as an archeological restoration artist uses chemicals and swabs to preserve and care for cultural objects, we use the imagination, storytelling, personal narrative, movement, and puppets in attempt to restore what has been damaged in humanity."

As a result, and as a means of re-sketching the erasure, the work is infused with concepts from African spirituality and philosophy. Amenii emphasized that "This is not 'The Little Mermaid.' It's not like, 'Yippee! Under the Sea!'"

Rather, Yemi, the mermaid in the story, is based on "Mami Wata" or "Yemaya," the ocean mother goddess in Santería, an Afro-Caribbean religion practiced all over the globe. Nacci, the seahorse featured in the play, is based on "Fibonacci," the mathematical equation found within nature - and upon which the Dogon people of Mali constructed their housing compounds and celebrations. Akashi, the octopus, is named after the Akashic records, a philosophical concept said to be the compendium of all universal events, thoughts, words, emotions and intent ever to have occurred in the past, present, or future -from all entities, not just humans.

The cast of "HUMAN" includes Rebekah Babelay, Kaylyn Carter, Josh C., April Tillies, Khalilah Smith, Olympea, and Tippin (no last names).

"HUMAN" will run at The Tina McGuire Theatre at the Wortham Center for the Performing Arts, at 18 Biltmore Ave. in Asheville, N.C., through May 15. Public performances will be at 3 p.m. tomorrow (Sunday), 7 p.m. Friday, 1 p.m. Saturday, and at 3 p.m. Sunday, May 15. All tickets are pay-what-you-wish (collected post-performance). Seats can be reserved in advance through a form on the ACA website: https://ashevillecreativearts.org/mainstage-productions/. For more information about the Wortham Center for the Performing Arts, visit https://www.worthamarts.org. Email info@ashevillcreativearts.org or call (914) 830-3000 if you are a school or community group wishing to book a weekday school matinee.

About Asheville Creative Arts

Asheville's critically acclaimed, award-winning theater devoted to creating works for children of all ages, Asheville Creative Arts was founded in 2013 and produces, presents, and creates innovative works for multigenerational, multiethnic and multidimensional audiences, performed by adult actors. Past productions include "Charlotte's Web," "The Warp & The Weft," "Bugs!", and "Slug & Snail." "Ostensibly, ACA produces children's theater, but the company's ambitious works appeal to both youths and adults," according to the Mountain Xpress. More information can be found at www.facebook.com/ashevillecreativearts and/or https://www.instagram.com/acatheatre/, and/or email info@ashevillecreativearts.org or call (914) 830-3000.

More info on Khunum Productions can be found at www.khunumproductions.com



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