BLACK’N’BLUES a minstrel show

BLACK'N'BLUES

a minstrel show

(2010)

BLACK'N BLUES a Minstrel Show
with
Goeffrey Carey or Mark Tompkins
Mathieu Grenier 
Séverine Bauvais 
Dorothée Munyaneza 
Antje Schur or Yulia Tokareva
Isnelle da Silveira

BLACK'N BLUES a Minstrel Show

Artistic Direction : Mark Tompkins
Scenography & Costumes : Jean-Louis Badet
Light & Technical Direction : David Farine
Musical Arrangements : Mathieu Grenier
Administration, Diffusion : Amelia Serrano

Administrative Assistant : Sandrine Barrasso

Thanks to Evelyne Menaucourt, Yulia Tokareva, Nicole Gautier

Duration : 1h30



BLACK'N BLUES a Minstrel Show

Creation - November 9, 2010
Théâtre Edwige Feuiilère de Vesoul

The music and songs from BLACK'N'BLUES cover a vast period from 1830 to the present, and notably Minstrel songs from 1830 to 1860, Coon songs from 1900, Blues from the 20's and 30's, Soul and R&B from the 50's and 60's and Rap from the 80's until today.


Bert Williams
Bert Williams
Or

captivated by our cravings and disgusts 
blinded by our beliefs and prejudices
trapped by our certainties and doubts 
programmed by our successes and failures
prisoners of our intentions and acts 
victims of our desires and fears
are we simply
slaves of ourselves ?

Make me laugh !

 

 

BLACK'N BLUES a Minstrel Show

BLACK‘N'BLUES
a minstrel show
BLACK‘N'BLUES is inspired by the 19e century minstrel show and blackface traditions in the United States - the farce of Whites made up as Blacks imitating Blacks aping Whites.
The minstrel show may be perceived of as an infinite inversion and reversal of the signs of identity and power. The staging of opposing and contradictory characters - white-black, man-woman, master-slave - questions with lightness and panache the notions of race, class and gender. It prefigures many forms of 20th century American entertainment : vaudeville, burlesque, slapstick, stand up comedy, even rap.

Our work is drawn from the collective memory of popular imagery - to a great extent buried and more often than not burlesque - and the intimate lives of the performers. If some of these elements can shock, it is not a question to attenuate these aspects, but to expose them to the public in the theater, a space of exhibition, to create a dialogue and a reflexion.

BLACK‘N'BLUES plays with the specific elements and mechanisms of the minstrel show: blackface, masks, cross-dressing, song-and-dance, parades, dance and oral battles. With the same light and playful spirit we cover current events, and stage the present. In a scenery of painted backdrops and wooden palissades evoking 19e century popular theater, the performers dance, sing and play a contemporary minstrel show that, through parody, liberates the critical forces that laughter provokes.

Press extracts

 

EXTRAITS DE PRESSE

...Everything here is ready. R.T.C.: ready to circulate. Jean-Louis Badet's set is simple, home made and functional, built with wooden planks, that serve as screens from a Gordon Craig scenography or public benches (...) Sumptuous costumes chosen, adapted, and made to measure by Mr. Badet. Lights designed by David Farine with timely effects in accurately dosed tones and intensities. A remarkable cast: the Shakespearian Geoffrey Carey, the playful Mathieu Grenier, the ardent Séverine Beavais, the gracious Dorothée Munyaneza, the frail Antje Schur, the malicious Isnelle de Silveira, all excellent dancers (including tap), complete actors and convincing singers, notably in the gospel numbers. With impeccable musical arrangements and a zany performance by Mathieu Grenier, Tompkins triumphs humbly from the wings. His direction is perfect.
Nicolas Villodre, www.danzine.fr, June 26, 2011

 

 

The choreographer Mark Tompkins rediscovers his American roots with a marvelous musical performance consecrated to Black music from the 19th and 20th century. (...) Using blues, gospel, rock and rap, the show denounces with humor and derision the stereotypes with which Whites have disguised Black Americans and that last despite the abolition of slavery, the hard won victories of the civil rights movement and the election of a Black president. Behind the comical masks the performance evokes the Black condition, using irony and satire to denounce White racism, even in the musical domain.
Delphine Goater, www.resmusica.com, June 27, 2011

 

 

...The choreographer's exploit is a tour de force: more than 200 years of history are evoked in an astonishing mix of vaudeville and burlesque, gospel and stand up comedy, blues and rap. A certain chronology, systematically punctuated by the irruption of references to the present, inscribes the performance in today's burning issues. The entertaining numbers draw ovations from the public who laugh, sing along and applaud. Tompkins' piece is majestically orchestrated; he has a great sense of rhythm and distils a solemn and serious spirit in small touches, culminating with a moment of breathtaking blues...
Smaranda Olcèse-Trifan, www.toutelaculture.com, April 3, 2011

 

 

...Mark Tompkins questions with an apparent lightness the notions of race, gender and class. It is not neutral that along with his four female blackfaced singers-dancers, he adds a rabbi's son who refused to become a cantor at the synagogue. Four high flying women who slide through gospel, blues, Russian dancing, a raging revival trance triggered by a charismatic preacher, and a final rap. We wish there were eight like them on stage!...
Ouest France, March 29, 2011

 

 

Mark Tompkins' BLACK'N'BLUES is inspired by American minstrel shows, in which White artists wore blackface to represent Blacks. On one hand, a dreadful factory of clichés, and on the other hand, a potent melting pot of stage doublings, close to the sources of music hall.  Wishing to ignore neither of these two sides, and render them fertile in 2010, the choreographer ventured onto slippery ground. He succeeds perfectly. We surprise ourselves laughing at the first appearance of a caricatured Black Mama. But what are we laughing at? The grotesqueness of the character, of course, but just as much the consciousness of the filthy racist stupidity that made it a subject of mockery for decades. It plays on two levels. A woman incarnates both before our eyes. But isn't she, after all, a kind of transvestite? In this way, a rhythmical play of doubles rebounds, from song to tap dance, from comedy to transgender rap, offering a cheerful view with multiple meanings.
Gérard Mayen, Danser, January 2011

 

 

BLACK'N BLUES a Minstrel Show
Jim Crow                   Thomas Rice

 

THE MINSTREL SHOW AND BLACKFACE

The minstrel show was a popular form of entertainment developed in the United States in the 19e century, of which derived forms continue to be present until today. The minstrel show was born in the 1830's when the White actor, Thomas Dartmouth Rice, became an overnight star with a blackface song-and-dance routine in which he impersonated an old, black slave by the name of Jim Crow. In 1843, The Christy Minstrels, a group of white actors and musicians created the first veritable minstrel show. Their phenomenal success spread like a fire and led to the formation of minstrel troops all over the country.

Blackface was an important performance tradition in the American theater for roughly 100 years. Blackface, in the narrow sense, is a style of theatrical makeup used by Whites to take on the appearance of Blacks, and especially those of the happy-go lucky darky on the plantation and the dandified coon. White blackface performers used burnt cork and later greasepaint or shoe polish to blacken their skin, exaggerated their lips, wore woolly wigs, white gloves and ragged clothes to complete the transformation.

BLACK'N BLUES a Minstrel Show

In the 1830s and 1840s, blackface performances mixed skits with comic songs and vigorous dances. Stereotyped blackface characters developed: buffoonish, lazy, superstitious, cowardly and lascivious characters who stole, lied pathologically and mangled the English language. Early blackface minstrels were all male, so cross-dressing White men played Black women who were often portrayed as grotesquely fat and mannish as the Mammy, or else highly sexually provocative as the Wench.

 

After the Civil War, Black entertainers themselves began to enter the tradition, appearing in blackface makeup, forming their own minstrel troops and taking on the caricatures and stereotypes created by the White performers. When all-Black minstrel shows began to proliferate, they were often billed as the real thing. These colored minstrels always claimed to be recently freed slaves - doubtless some were, but most were not. Still, they were considered to be authentic.
Unlike white audiences, black audiences presumably always recognized blackface performance as caricature and, for the most part, took pleasure in seeing their own culture observed and reflected, Despite reinforcing racist stereotypes, blackface minstrelsy was a practical and often relatively lucrative livelihood when compared to the menial labor to which most Blacks were relegated. Owing to the discrimination of the day, corking or blacking up provided a singular opportunity for African-American musicians, dancers and actors to practice their art.

 

BLACK'N BLUES a Minstrel Show

Although the minstrel shows began to decline at the turn of the century, the tradition was continued in the new popular entertainment forms of movies and radio. Early silent films continued to cast first White actors in blackface and then Black actors as shiftless, lazy, comical characters. One of the most popular characters of the silent film era was Uncle Tom, an old Black man always ready to do what was asked of him. Other popular stereotypes included Mammy, a fat waddling Black woman who chased her man with a cast-iron skillet, and Rufus, a chicken-stealing, shifty-eyed Black hooligan.

Stereotypes embodied in the stock characters of blackface minstrelsy played a significant role in cementing and proliferating racist and sexist images, attitudes and perceptions worldwide. The caricatures that were the legacy of blackface persist to the present day and are a cause of ongoing controversy. Blackface's groundbreaking appropriation, exploitation and assimilation of African-American culture were but a prologue to the lucrative packaging, marketing, and dissemination of this cultural expression, and its derivative forms, in today's popular culture.

 

BLACK'N BLUES a Minstrel Show

photos : © Gilles Toutevoix 

 

 

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