With Sitelines BLM, Cadence Theatre Company launches a project focusing on sites of importance to Richmond’s BIPOC residents, especially those that have been reshaped by the Black Lives Matter movement.
Cadence Theatre Company is currently seeking submissions for its newest project, Sitelines BLM, a series of filmed plays and screenplays that hope to center BIPOC voices in Richmond by focusing on places that are being reshaped through the Black Lives Matter movement.
The project was created by Omiyemi (Artisia) Green, an associate professor of Theatre and Africana Studies at William & Mary who has been a resident dramaturge at Cadence for the last two years and this year became a member of the theatre’s artistic board of directors. Green was inspired to create Sitelines BLM by the summer that preceded the announcement of the project.
“COVID-19 and social unrest have shaken the American Theatre,” Green said. “As a result, the corporate theatrical body – its racist policies and practices – have been called on the carpet.”
Green saw Cadence, a predominantly white institution, as a place that could respond to the disruption of American theatre by creating a project that was “meaningful, sustainable, collaborative, and reciprocal — and, most importantly, in a way which truly recognized and centered BIPOC voices and artistry.”
The original Sitelines project, which Cadence launched in 2015, sought to bring theater into new and innovative spaces in Richmond through free performances in various Richmond locations. Previous Sitelines projects include The Flick by Annie Baker, shown in 2015, My name is Rachel Corrie, shown in 2017, and The Gun Show by EM Lewis, also shown in 2017.
For Sitelines BLM, Cadence collaborated with a variety of groups and organizations — including Oakwood Arts; the William & Mary programs in Africana Studies and Theatre, Speech, and Dance; the University of Richmond Free Theatre and Dance; and VCUarts Theatre, as well as Cadence’s producing partner, Virginia Repertory Theatre — to create a visual storytelling project that will focus on BIPOC voices in Richmond.
Green mentioned Marcus-David Peters Circle, Reclamation Square outside City Hall, and Richmond’s African Burial Ground as examples for potential storytelling locations. However, writers are not limited to those locations — Green explained that potential locations can come from sites of memory, of reclamation and reimagination, resistance, displacement and injustice, and ritual or spiritual activation.
“[The examples are used] to inspire commissioners to consider any space in Richmond that presents itself as a siteline – a space where the people wrestle with history and memory, a space that has been reclaimed and reimagined by the community, a space where the people have intentionally unified under a common purpose — to use their body and voice in service of the highest calling,and that is fighting injustice on behalf of the marginalized and voiceless,” Green said.
Green looked to recommendations from members of the Richmond community, places she heard about in the news, and places she heard about on her social media timeline when deciding which places could make good locations in Richmond.
“None of my work is done in a vacuum,” she said. “In community engaged work, especially as a semi-outsider, it is especially important that I engage the people who live here in determining what needs to be elevated or addressed.”
Besides centering BIPOC voices and artistry, Green hopes Sitelines BLM will create increased recognition and opportunities for BIPOC writers and artists in Richmond, in all areas of creative production and administration.
“Hopefully, through the artistic relationships we build through the work, we develop an even larger pipeline of talent to be fueled into other areas of the work of Cadence Theatre, and the broader Richmond theatre community,” said Green.
For Sitelines BLM, Cadence will ultimately commission work from five local writers; interested candidates should submit one screenplay or play no more than five minutes in length. The deadline for submissions is Monday, September 14 by 11:59pm. Selected writers will be notified by October 16, and full scripts finalized by December. Production for Sitelines BLM is expected to begin in 2021.
“I would love to see stories brought into the line of sight that haven’t been told before,” Green said. “Stories that compel us to act in ways that bring balance to malevolent forces and adversaries of goodness within the world, stories that elevate our cultural consciousness and strengthen our commitment to being better individually.”
For information on the submission process for Sitelines BLM, go to https://cadencetheatre.org/sitelines-blm.