For their Sitelines BLM project, the Cadence Theatre Company will work with five different Black screenwriters to create films depicting historic locations around Richmond in progressive contexts.
The Cadence Theatre Company has commissioned five artists to produce short, filmed performances for their Sitelines BLM series — which aims to showcase historical locations throughout Richmond in a progressive, racial-justice focused light.
“Responsive to our current political moment and with interest in uplifting marginalized voices, we seek to commission five local Black, Indigenous, Writers of Color to write screenplays and plays that will be filmed,” the Cadence Theatre website reads.
The five selected screenwriters are Brittany Fisher, dl Hopkins, Margarette Joyner, Jessica Colocho Mairena, and Obadiah Parker.
The films commissioned by Sitelines BLM each have to do with a specific place or space in the city of Richmond.
“Marcus-David Peters Circle (Robert E. Lee Monument), Reclamation Square (City Hall), and The African Burial Ground are but a few examples of specific places in our surrounding community where performances that can shift and deepen our intervisibility are taking place,” the website reads.
RVA Mag was able to sit down with two of the five screenwriters and talk to them about their pieces.
dl Hopkins, founder of the slam poetry group Southern Revolutionist Literary Guild and supporting actor in the 2016 film Loving, is producing a short film titled Break for the project.
The film centers on a lunch break where a Black couple tries to relate a story to their coworkers — a story which to them was quite horrifying, but comes across as funny to others.
“It involves a young man recalling the horrors of his weekend dinner, to his co-workers’ amusement,” Hopkins said.
The film is based on one of Hopkins’ own experiences with his wife — although telling what the experience was would spoil the plot of the film. The title has a double meaning, which becomes evident as the story progresses.
Hopkins says he hopes everyone who sees his film comes away from it with a different perspective.
“I like things that are open,” said Hopkins. “Certain bits of art are more personal, everyone can come away with something different. You meet it, and it meets you, as opposed to sitting in the theatre for two hours, being hammered in the head with something.”
Hopkins plans to film at two locations around the Richmond area, with the lunch break scenes being filmed at the Virginia State Capitol.
VCU Theater student Obadiah Parker, who founded the Black Theatre Association at his university, is producing a short play for the project. Focused on the Black experience at a white church, the play, titled Enough, is based on one of Parker’s own church experiences.
“It’s a spiritual journey, interwoven with the Black aesthetic,” said Parker. “The world of Enough is dark, with colorful undertones. The whole play is about understanding and trying to see the other point of view, while also being grounded in your beliefs and your faith, and who you are as an individual.”
It focuses on a main character named Flint, who attempts to be the first Black preacher at a mainly white church. He joins forces with a white woman who has selective mutism, and the two attempt to expose “the sin of complicit silence” within the church.
Parker says that he felt a responsibility to apply for the program after the death of George Floyd sparked the nationwide Black Lives Matter protest movement.
“I saw an opportunity that I could just be representative as a Black artist,” Parker said. “I made it kind of a responsibility to apply.”
Parker says that he wants his play to be filmed at both the Grace and Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, a historic location in Richmond, and the Marcus-David Peters Circle.
Omiyemi Artisia Green, the director of the Sitelines BLM project, says that screenwriters will have until Dec. 31 to submit finished scripts of their work. Filming will begin in 2021, with appropriate social distancing measures in place. When the films are finished, Cadence Theatre will show them at an online film festival and host discussions following each film, according to Green.
Top Photo by Jay Paul Photography