On November 2, I showed up hungry to the opening night of the Pillsbury 2013 Late Nite series. I have been going to the series since 2009, so I knew there would be plenty of food for my soul and my belly. Delicious hot tamales and a chance to mingle with audience and artists before the show created the feeling of eating with family on a cold fall night.
Laurie Carlos, the curator and mother of the gathering, set the tone of the night by reminding us that we were there be engaged in some form of transformation. As she welcomed us to the Pillsbury House Theater Auditorium at 9 p.m., she said, “If you get nervous and a little uncomfortable, that’s what we’re here for.” She was the mother who was having all of her grown children over at her home and the auditorium was her living room, where everyone wentafter leaving the dinner table.
E.G. Bailey a co-curator of the series hosted the gathering, introducing the interdisciplinary forms of art that graced the stage. We consumed poetry, dance, film and music. It was like turning off the television and witnessing our talented relatives share their gifts.
The first gift came from Emmanuel Ortiz in the form of poetry dedicated to those that have passed, marking the Día de los Muertos as well as the Hindu holiday, Diwali. With Ortiz, we celebrated the life of the late Brandon Lacey Campos, a Minnesota artist and activist who passed this time last year. Ortiz shared how Brandon taught him through soccer to “fly and fall” at the same time.
The flying and falling metaphor sums up what I love most about the series. It is a powerful opportunity for artists to experiment in front of a supportive audience that collectively accepts the vulnerability that comes with creating.
What came next was the contemporary interpretive dance by Energy Dance Collective choreographed by Amanda Leaveck. It was a nice transition into the mixing and scratching by disc jockey D’jo, who was spinning blindfolded as the audience moved their heads back and forth listening to his beating wonder. Then a short film called White Space by Maya Washington about a deaf performing poet captivated us. This poetry needed no words but subtitles were helpful to those of us who don’t use American Sign Language. The film was a reminder to be grateful for our blessings.
What happened at the end of the night blew me away. I was on the verge of getting on the stage and move my feet and body but I snapped, clapped, and hollered from my seat when PaviElle French graced the stage with her soulful sounds and full band that understood the energy in her songs and soul. She closed the night filling us with affirmations and stories. We were left in awe.
Every night of the Pillsbury Late Nite series is different, with two more gatherings on November 9 and 16.