FirstWorks Opens Fall Season with Daniel Bernard Roumain and Luminary Collaborators in ‘The Telling’
Music and dance transform WaterFire Arts Center with powerful storytelling responding to Black trauma and affirming Black Joy
Providence, RI — FirstWorks, a Rhode Island non-profit dedicated to building community through world-class arts, presents “The Telling,” a powerful performance by renowned Haitian-American composer, violinist and activist Daniel Bernard Roumain on Thursday, September 29, 8 p.m. at WaterFire Arts Center. The evening program features instrumental solos, dance and chamber music that responds to Black trauma and affirms Black joy. A Town Hall dialogue will follow the performances.
Experienced as a whole, this new collection of Romain’s original compositions explores the question: how can we, the living, honor the lost? In “The Telling,” artists will reflect upon and respond to the forces of crisis and communion in our lives, with performance stories of anger, anguish, and enduring hope.
Over a dozen local and national creative collaborators join Roumain to create this community-building “PVDFest happening,” including Melvin Chen (pianist), Dana Greenfield (director), Community MusicWorks’ MusicWorks Collective (string quartet), Becky Bass (soprano), Albert Rudolph Lee (tenor), Shura Baryshnikov (choreographer), Victoria L. Awkward (dancer), Jay Breen (dancer) and David Shocket (lighting designer).
“Collaborating with FirstWorks in the presentation of ‘The Telling’ and chamber work ‘Twin Stars’ comes at a time of great division and divide in our United States of America,” said Roumain. “Are we united? Do we share a singular, national ambition? What are the stories that we could all share and whom would be entrusted to tell them?”
“‘The Telling’ is the sharing of stories, songs and ideas,” Romain continued — “Things don’t seem quite right, and when words evade or fail us, the work of artists might matter most. If you could only tell one last story before it all ends, which one would it be and why? That’s what I’ve tried to do in ‘The Telling.’”
“Twin Stars: Diamond Variations for Dae’Anna” is the centerpiece of the evening’s performance. This lush chamber work by Roumain, with libretto by arts activist and spoken word artist Marc Bamuthi Joseph, is a cry for racial justice and a searing artistic response to the killing of Philando Castile. Castile was fatally shot during a traffic stop by a police officer in 2016 while driving with his girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, and her four-year-old daughter Dae’Anna. The September 29 staging of “Twin Stars” will feature movement for the first time.
The evening program includes the premiere live performance of “I Have Nothing to Do Except Love,” plus “They Still Want to Kill Us,” “Love is the Only Word Sweeter than Black,” “Twin Stars: Diamond Variations for Dae’Anna,” featuring MusicWorks Collective, and additional performances featuring Roumain and Baryshnikov.
The wellspring for “The Telling” was “Requiem for the Living, In Color,” a piece originally conceived as a performance for PVDFest 2020. When live performances shifted to virtual delivery during the COVID lockdown, the resulting live-streamed cinematic journey in film and sound by Roumain and filmmaker Carlos Andres Toro was a cathartic response to the realities of creating as people of color during a divisive moment in our nation’s troubled history. With “The Telling,” more than two years of deep artistic and community collaboration will finally come to a live crescendo at Providence’s WaterFire Arts Center.
“Gathering audiences to witness the creative combustion of stellar artists creates joy and hope. Daniel Bernard Roumain is one of the most distinguished thought leaders and artistic voices of our time,” said Kathleen Pletcher, executive artistic director of FirstWorks. “As FirstWorks Artistic Ambassador, he has spent years developing deep relationships with artists in our community and lifting us all. We are honored to be producing ‘The Telling’ as part of PVDFest’s contributions to the arts and the community.”
Box Office Information
Free and “pay-what-you-choose” tickets are available at firstworks.org/event/the-telling or by calling 401-421-4278. Masks are suggested for attendees but are not required.
FirstWorks is a non-profit based in Providence, Rhode Island whose purpose is to build the cultural, educational and economic vitality of its community by engaging diverse audiences with world-class performing arts and education programs. Since 2004, FirstWorks festivals, performances and programs have attracted more than 700,000 participants. During its 2021-22 season, FirstWorks produced 52 arts education events reaching over 2,000 Rhode Island youth. New Virtual Learning online platforms furthered FirstWorks educational reach and engaged over 20,000 views from students, educators, and families. FirstWorks is the founding partner of PVDFest and has collaborated with the City of Providence to curate and produce the City’s free, signature arts celebration since 2015. In June 2022 the three-day festival drew 115,000 people downtown to experience local and world-class artistry across nine stages, resulting in deep economic impact within the City of Providence and generating over $3 million in total expenditures. The festival has employed over 4,000 artists since its beginning. Embracing collaboration, FirstWorks has fostered over 90 community partnerships across business, social service, government, arts and education sectors. Visit firstworks.org to learn more.
Daniel Bernard Roumain (DBR)
Daniel Bernard Roumain (DBR) is a prolific and endlessly collaborative composer, performer and activist. “About as omnivorous as a contemporary artist gets” (New York Times), DBR has worked with artists from Philip Glass to Bill T. Jones to Lady Gaga; appeared on NPR, American Idol, and ESPN; and has collaborated with the Sydney Opera House and served for two years as FirstWorks Artistic Ambassador. Acclaimed as a violinist and activist, DBR’s career spans more than two decades, earning commissions by venerable artists and institutions worldwide. Known for his signature violin sounds infused with myriad electronic, urban, and African-American music influences, he has composed chamber, orchestral, and operatic works and created large scale, site-specific musical events for public spaces. More info at https://www.danielroumain.com/.
About Providence’s Department of Art Culture + Tourism
The Providence Department of Art, Culture + Tourism ensures the continued development of a vibrant and creative city by integrating arts and culture into community life while showcasing Providence as an international cultural destination. The Department envisions a Providence that is a global destination for arts, humanities, and design, where neighbors celebrate diverse cultural and artistic experiences, and where all residents and visitors feel that a relationship to arts practice, making, and culture is a part of their everyday lives. More info at https://artculturetourism.com.
About the WaterFire Arts Center
WaterFire Providence purchased the Arts Center in 2012 and began rehabilitation for the vacant, historic industrial building in the underserved Olneyville/Valley neighborhood of Providence. The 37,000 sq. ft. multi-use arts center has become WaterFire’s first permanent home in the community and serves as its headquarters, production complex, and a multi-purpose arts venue as well as a social enterprise platform strengthening the organization’s long-term financial sustainability. Exhibitions presented at WaterFire Arts Center will further the organization’s agenda of providing arts and culture opportunities and experiences for all, regardless of social, cultural or economic background. For more information about the WaterFire Arts Center including rental inquiries, please visit: https://waterfire.org/wfac.
The creative development of “The Telling” and “The Seeing” was made possible with funding by the New England Foundation for the Arts’ New Work New England program, with funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, Seedlings Foundation, the Fund for the Arts at NEFA, and individual donors. This grant is in honor of Dr. Larry Simpson, a NEFA board member from 2006 –2020, including six years as chair, and a champion of the arts. This program is made possible with additional support from Providence Tourism Council, National Endowment for the Arts, Providence’s Department of Art Culture + Tourism, and the Aaron Roitman Fund for Chamber Music.