Rhodessa Jones is an actress, singer, dancer, writer and teacher. Her work has been described as powerful, poetic, raw, fiery and majestic. She awed Portland audiences with her 1994 production of Big Butt Girls, Hard-Headed Women, a series of vignettes created from her experiences as an aerobics instructor in a California women’s prison. She returns to Portland with two performances of her latest piece, The Blue Stories: Black Erotica on Letting Go presented as part of PICA’s 1996-97 Performance Series. The Blue Stories will be performed Friday & Saturday, December 13 & 14 at 8 p.m. at the University of Portland’s Mago Hunt Theater. Tickets are $14 ($12 for PICA members) and can be purchased by calling PICA at 503/242-1419.

Rhodessa Jones is a masterful storyteller and is considered to be one of the most charismatic and soulful theater artists working today. She lives and works in San Francisco where she is the director and founder of The Medea Project: Theater for Incarcerated Women, a program designed to promote self-awareness and self-esteem through the creation and production of personal theater pieces. As Co-Artistic Director of Cultural Odyssey, the San Francisco-based performing arts company, Jones and her partner, musician Idris Ackamoor, have toured nationally and internationally with solo and duet pieces. Jones has received rave reviews and numerous awards for virtually each original piece she has launched, including a 1993 “Bessie” Award for Big Butt Girls, Hard-Headed Women.

Her new piece, The Blue Stories: Black Erotica on Letting Go, is the third of a series of autobiographically-based works which examine the present world as it has revealed itself to the artist. Jones defines ‘erotica’ as “a psychological, sensory response to the soil in which one is planted…the ‘rush’ that comes with deliverance and salvation — hence liberation.” In The Blue Stories she shares her most intimate secrets — about childhood, poverty, teenage pregnancy, family tragedy — in a way that makes her story universal. Her experiences are further illustrated through her extraordinary use of multiple characters, dream sequences, gestural movements, dance and her own powerful brand of performance.

Rhodessa Jones will also present a lecture on her work, Thursday, December 12 at 7:30 p.m. at the Interstate Firehouse Cultural Center (IFCC) as part of their
1996-97 ORIGINS lecture series. Tickets to the lecture are $10 and can be purchased by calling IFCC at 503/823-2000. She will also conduct a theater workshop for a group of middle and high school students as part of the ORIGINS program. ORIGINS is sponsored in part by the Black United Fund and Powell’s City Books.

For more information, please call PICA at 503/242-1419.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 8, 1996
CONTACT: Kathy Budas, 503/242-1419

PICA ADDS THIRD RHODESSA JONES PERFORMANCE

Matinee Performance Added on Sunday, December 15 at 2 p.m.

Due to the overwhelming response for tickets, PICA has added a third performance of Rhodessa Jones’ The Blue Stories: Black Erotica on Letting Go. The performance will be held Sunday, December 15 at 2 p.m. at the University of Portland’s Mago Hunt Theater (5000 N. Willamette Blvd.) Tickets are $14 general admission ($12 for PICA members) and can be purchased at the door or by calling PICA at 242-1419.

The Friday, December 13 performance at 8 p.m. is sold out, however tickets to the Saturday, December 14 performance at 8 p.m. are still available.

In addition to the three performances, Rhodessa Jones will also present a lecture on her work, Thursday, December 12 at 7:30 p.m. at the Interstate Firehouse Cultural Center (IFCC) as part of their 1996-97 ORIGINS lecture series. Tickets to the lecture are $10 and can be purchased by calling IFCC at 503/823-2000.

For more information, please call PICA at 503/242-1419.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 3, 1996
CONTACT: Kathy Budas, 503/242-1419

Program

Portland Institute for Contemporary Art

PRESENTS

THE BLUE STORIES:
BLACK EROTICA ON LETTING GO

December 13, 14 & 15
Mago Hunt Theater, University of Portland

Conceived, Written & Performed by:
RHODESSA JONES

Directed by: IDRIS ACKAMOOR

Paintings by: LORRAINE CAPPARELL
Music by: MAHALIA JACKSON, RAY CHARLES, IDRIS ACKAMOOR, EVA DEMARYCHK & FLO BROWN
Lighting Design by: STEPHANIE JOHNSON
Costumes by: RENE WALKER & RHODESSA JONES

“Erotica is a physiological, sensory response to the soil in which one is planted. Erotica to me is the “rush” that comes with deliverance and salvation — hence liberation. The Blue Stories are the third performance in a series of autobiographically-based works that examine the world as it has revealed itself to me. The Blue Stories is dedicated to Redd Fox; it is in memory of my son-in-law Calvin Robinson, Jr., who died so young and so sad. All thanks to Lars Speyer, and words are not sufficient to express my gratitude and love for Lorraine Capparell, who created The Rhodessian Suite — the nine paintings. And above all to my mother, the general who swung a big stick, but never left us.” —RHODESSA JONES

“This is the second production that I have had the pleasure of collaborating with Rhodessa as her director. Big Butt Girls, Hard-Headed Women began this unique process with Rhodessa bringing me her writings and myself staging, directing and composing the music for the theatrical environment. The Blue Stories continues her work in multiple character, dreamtime, gestural movements and her own unique approach to performance. Welcome to The Blue Stories.” —IDRIS ACKAMOOR

BIOGRAPHIES

RHODESSA JONES is an actress, dancer, singer, writer and teacher living in San Francisco. Jones is Founder and Director of THE MEDEA PROJECT: Theatre for Incarcerated Women, a program designed to promote incarcerated women’s self-awareness and self-esteem through the creation and production of theater pieces based on their personal histories. In 1992, 1993, and 1994, THE MEDEA PROJECT premiered original works at three of San Francisco’s professional theaters. All three performances received wide acclaim and were performed before sold out houses.

As Co-Artistic Director of Cultural Odyssey, the San Francisco based performing arts company, Jones and her partner Idris Ackamoor have toured nationally and internationally with their solo and duet pieces, which have received rave reviews and awards, including a 1993 BESSIE for Big Butt Girls, Hard-Headed Women. In 1994, Jones has been honored with awards from the San Francisco Women’s Foundation and the San Francisco chapter of N.O.W. During the fall semester of 1993, Jones taught a performance seminar at the graduate level at New College of California. In October 1993, Jones spoke at a conference on Live Art and Cultural Identity, as part of the National Review of Live Art in London at the Institute of Contemporary Arts.

IDRIS ACKAMOOR is a multi-instrumentalist, director, composer, actor and tap-dancer living in San Francisco. He is Founder and Director of the performance company Cultural Odyssey, which has received international attention for its innovative, multi-disciplinary work. For the past twelve years, Ackamoor has collaborated with actress/performance artist Rhodessa Jones, creating productions which have toured throughout America and internationally. In addition to his work with Jones, Ackamoor’s collaborations include pieces with dancer/choreographer Bill T. Jones, percussionist Don Moye, playwright Ed Bullins, visual artist Keith Haring, musician Vernon Reid and the late filmmaker Marlon Riggs. Ackamoor has been honored for his work through fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, by the New York Dance and Performance awards (BESSIE), and the Isadora Duncan Dance Awards.

LORRAINE CAPPARELL is an artist whose work is rich with archetypal female imagery, dreams and Buddhist symbology. “I make art to pay tribute to the spirit within.” Her media are ceramic sculpture, watercolors and photography.

STEPHANIE A. JOHNSON has been a lighting designer for 18 years working at the Oakland Ensemble Theater, Theaterworks, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and many other groups. She has been with Cultural Odyssey since 1985. As a visual artists, Ms. Johnson has received commissions from the Richmond Arts Center, the City of Oakland, and Intersection for the Arts. She has been a recipient of grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New Langton Interdisciplinary Arts Program in San Francisco.

RENE WALKER designs unique fashions, creates costumes and dance presentations. She has worked previously with Cultural Odyssey on the last MEDEA PROJECT performances, Reality is Just Outside the Window, Food Taboos in the Land of the Dead, and A Place at the Table: A Taste of Somewhere Else, as well as on Emergency Report!

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CULTURAL ODYSSEY’s purpose is to create and produce original contemporary theatre pieces that address the social needs and reflect the experiences of our community.

CULTURAL ODYSSEY’S PRODUCTIONS ARE MADE POSSIBLE THROUGH THE SUPPORT OF THE NATIONAL ENDOWMENT FOR THE ARTS’ OPERA/MUSICAL THEATER TOURING, THEATER, AND PRESENTING AND COMMISSIONING PROGRAMS.