The Why Collective to Present WORDS OF THE PROPHETS at The Cell Theatre

The one-act play weaves lyrical language, dance and movement, and an original, experimental score into the stories of five characters experiencing homelessness.

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The Why Collective will present a workshop premiere of Words of the Prophets by Vayl Larkin from April 21-23, 2023, at Nancy Manocherian's the cell theatre (Artistic Director, Kira Simring). The one-act play weaves lyrical language, dance and movement, and an original, experimental score into the stories of five characters experiencing homelessness. A trans sex worker, a war veteran experiencing PTSD, a wheelchair-using skater youth, a woman with schizophrenia, and a busking musician make up an ensemble of characters that tell the story of the dangerous and unforgiving landscape of homelessness in America as well as the redemptive and joyful experiences that can be found. The creative team believes that to understand the truth, and hope to heal it, we must see it all without any filters. The play seeks to promote empathy above all.

What makes Words of the Prophets so unique is not just its experimental format, which melds silent movement with stylized narration and experimental sound, to create hyper-real snapshots of humans our world tries not to see. Nor is it the multi-sensory nature of the experience, with poetry, dance, music, even air moving with the actors passing through the intimate space of the cell theatre. Rather, it is the diverse cast, crew, and production team behind the play. The workshop team as a whole is mostly non-white, many having personal experience with homelessness or housing insecurity, and it employs a number of disabled artists, including the playwright Vayl Larkin, who is a wheelchair user. The Why Collective attempts to put into practice the equality goals so often espoused by our society, but so seldom realized.

"I myself was homeless, though not unsheltered, for a time in my 20s," says playwright Vayl Larkin, "living in rented rooms, motels, on couches and with men I met. I worked in a nude club dancing, because as a white, educated and athletic person I was able to enter the higher-end places and be hired. Many, many of my peers did not have this option, and were forced to compromise much more of their safety. These unearned privileges saved me, and it seems just to me that they should help me to amplify the voices of the friends and found family I lived with. Music, poetry, the learned ability to process data - [these are] Survival skills, though they're not always seen that way. I want to use them to help others survive."

Director and Body Performer, JNK Enzo, says that when they first read the play, "the words danced off the page for me, the letters sang to me. It was music and melancholy. It was a sad, beautiful truth that I have seen in my life and I could relate to as an individual, now and in my past... From the struggle with homelessness to PTSD, we can all find a piece of this play that touches us or someone we know. Someone we know [who] wants to do better, but lives in a society that purposely forgets about them."

Founder and Artistic Director of The Why Collective, Sydney Anderson, says that the primary mandate of workshopping Words of the Prophets is amplifying often-silenced voices, both of the characters and the actors themselves. This Workshop Premiere will feature ASL direction by Maleni Chaitoo, and a cast of emerging and established multidisciplinary artists, including Deaf actor, Dickie Hearts (Dark Disabled Stories, The Public Theater; Tales of the City, Netflix), ASL performer, Alberto Medero (The Harder They Come, The Public Theater), dancer Mary-Angela Granberry (The Tonight Show, NBC), and Norm Mattox, Julian Wild, Justin Withers, and DeMarco Sleeper. Incidental music was commissioned by The Why Collective and composed by Elizabeth Gartman (American Opera Initiative Composer Fellow, Kennedy Center), Derek Weagle (American Prize in Composition), Tyson Gholston Davis, and Vasily Ratmansky.


Click Here range from $20-$50 with limited availability. Live-stream access is available for $20, with on-demand viewing access for one month after the workshop. Tickets can be purchased at the following link: Click Here, or via The Why Collective's website.

To inquire about a sliding scale or free access to view the piece either in-person or virtually, please email

Proceeds from this workshop will be donated to our partnering charitable organizations, SisTers PGH, a Black- and trans-led community organization that provides daytime respite and support services tailored to the needs of the trans community, and #StopKillingUs, a Global Campaign to raise awareness and support for BlackTransWomxn.


the cell theatre

338 W 23rd Street

New York, NY 10011

More information about Words of the Prophets and the remainder of The Why Collective's 2023 Festival-in-Residence can be found at, by following @the_why_collective on Instagram, or @thewhycollectiv on Facebook.

About the playwright

Vayl Larkin (they/them/theirs) is a trans, queer, disabled and wheelchair-enhanced writer and performer. An Upstate New York native, they have deep roots in the area of Pittsburgh, where they now live. Their writing ranges from theater to literary poetry and short fiction and they are a frequent featured performer at literary events. Their life experience has brought them to occupations from opera singer to sex worker, but they have degrees in Vocal Performance and Literary Theory, and are acutely aware of how their education and privilege have benefited them. Their poetry and short fiction have been published in literary journals and anthologies, they were a 2021 Brooklyn Poets Fellow, and their multimedia work with Deaf actor Crom Saunders has been featured through multiple venues.

About The Why Collective

The Why Collective was established in 2021 by Creative Director, Sydney Anderson, as a rotating roster of artists and thinkers dedicated to a roundtable style of artistic inception and creation. Collective artists are invited to work together without the traditional hierarchy of leadership roles. It is the collective's mission to create nuanced and layered works of interdisciplinary theatre that encourage artists and audiences to seek deeper truths together through the art of questioning.

About the cell theatre

Nancy Manocherian's the cell theatre (Artistic Director, Kira Simring) is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit dedicated to the incubation and presentation of new work across all artistic disciplines that mine the mind, pierce and awaken the soul. Founded in 2006, the cell has provided a developmental home in the heart of Chelsea for works in progress by artists ranging from early careers to established staples of the New York community. Originally established as a theatre space, the cell has gradually restructured into a cultural hub for food artists, cyborg theatre artists, musicians, installation artists, choreographers and more.

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