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HERE I AM: A Virtual Live Performance Produced by The Lab and GU Theater & Performance Studies

Written and performed by Mélisande Short-Colomb

Melisande Short-Colomb in The Laboratory for Global Politics and Performance's production of HERE I AM
Melisande Short-Colomb in The Laboratory for Global Politics and Performance's production of HERE I AM. Photo courtesy of Georgetown University.

In the world premiere of HERE I AM, written and performed by Mélisande Short-Colomb, we become vital witnesses to a story which needs to be told - one of enslaved people (known as the GU272) bought and sold by Maryland Jesuits to fund the purchase of land, which would later be the location of Georgetown University. Short-Colomb finds out from a genealogist that she is a descendant of Abraham Mahoney and Mary Ellen Queen, who were among the enslaved forced to leave their home in Maryland for Louisiana.

At the age of 63, Mélisande would enroll as a student at Georgetown, and further confront her complicated relationship with the university.

HERE I AM, produced by The Lab and GU Theater & Performance Studies with direction from Derek Goldman and Nikkole Salter, is a generational story on how slavery and racism impacted Short-Colomb's family, including her heavenly mothers.

Melisande Short-Colomb in The Laboratory for Global Politics and Performance's production of HERE I AM
Melisande Short-Colomb in The Laboratory for Global Politics and Performance's production of HERE I AM. Photo courtesy of Georgetown University.

Short-Colomb isn't a professional actor, but her storytelling is something to behold. Her voice is rich, dynamic, and poetic. Names of ancestors come in and out of her stories, but they continue to guide her storytelling. While the story of her enslaved ancestors remains the center, she does add a few about her relationship with her mother and grandmother. She recalls her love for her grandmother or how her mother taught her openness.

Racial injustice and its impact on generations is the core theme of this production. Short-Colomb doesn't leave out acknowledging the work being done by activists and committees to bring justice for the GU272. The fight for reparations still continues.

Short-Colomb did an excellent job handling the nuances of performing a live virtual production, but some production design did distract from her story. The heavy use of projections made it hard to focus on her. This is where keeping it simple with production elements would have added to the already powerful story. The music, composed and sung by Somi Kakoma, beautifully resonates with Short-Colomb's storytelling.

The stories of the GU272 shouldn't be forgotten and neither should their names. Say their names and listen to their stories.

HERE I AM runs from April 15 until April 17, 2021. The virtual performance is free to attend. Register for tickets here.

Running Time: 70 minutes without an intermission


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