Friday, January 6, 2012

Interview with Zoë Flowers of From Ashes to Angel's Dust

By Byrne Harrison

With several years experience in the domestic violence field, Zoë Flowers is the founder of Highest Good Consulting (HGC). HGC provides training and program management for local, statewide and national domestic violence organizations. Zoë has appeared on National Public Radio and has worked internationally on the issues of domestic violence.

Additionally, Ms. Flowers is the author of "Dirty Laundry." This series of candid interviews chronicles the lives of African American and their experiences with intimate partner violence and incest.

In 2011, Zoe started the Angel’s Dust Theatre Company to produce socially relevant and culturally responsible theater. The company’s first production is a ChoreoDrama entitled: From Ashes to Angel‘s Dust: A Journey Through Womanhood (FA2AD). FA2AD has been widely received in New York, Florida, Maryland, Philadelphia and Connecticut and Flowers looks forward to a 2012 national tour.

First, I have to say I'm intrigued by the description of From Ashes to Angel's Dust as a choreodrama.  Tell me a little bit about what that means.

Thank you so much for taking the time to interview me. From Ashes to Angel's Dust: A Journey Through Womanhood is part play and part Choreopoem. Ashes uses poetry, vignettes, monologues and movement to drive the story. However, I hesitated to call it a Choreopoem (A form of dramatic expression that combines poetry and dance) because the characters have defined relationships within the vignettes in a way that you don't see in a traditional Choreopoem. And I knew I couldn't call it a play. Choreodrama just felt "right".

Why did you choose that as the medium? 

I have been working in the Battered Women's Movement for over a decade now. I have worked nationally and internationally on the issue of violence against women and rarely see non "movement people" at the conferences and workshops I facilitate and attend. And there is still a lot of secrecy and misinformation floating around about the issue of intimate partner violence. Theatre and music have the power to educate people in non-threatening and healing ways. Ashes is doing that-already.

The play deals with some sensitive subjects.  What inspired it?
My bad relationships!  And my frustration with the way we deal or don't deal with issues of sexual and domestic violence (especially in communities of color). In 1995, I had just come out of a pretty violent relationship and was living in another state (because of the stalking from my ex).  Once safely out of the relationship, I started writing a novel about four girlfriends (one of whom was in a violent relationship). When I went looking for resources I realized the only book for black women who were in violent relationships had been written in 1973!   It was the '90s. How was it possible that there was nothing out there that spoke to women like me????  So, I wrote "Dirty Laundry: Women of Color Speak up about Dating and Domestic Violence." "Dirty Laundry" is a series of interviews that I did with women like myself that had experienced domestic/sexual violence. It was always my intention to turn those stories into a play of some sort.

However, as the play evolved it became less about the domestic violence and more about the experiences of women as a whole.  And surprisingly, it became about humor too (largely because of dramaturge and co-writer of many of the vignettes Sherri).

Who else is involved in the play?
As mentioned earlier, Sherri really helped to shape the piece.  Many of my poems were/are very dark and somehow we were able to put to make them lighter and inspirational. Sherri also pushed me to write more when I thought I had nothing left.  She was/is relentless!! Sherri  (women #3) is also one of the four actresses in the piece. I have a dynamic cast!!! Chantal (women #4), Vesta (women #2) and Peggy (women #1) sing, dance and have brought my words to life in ways that I could not have imagined. We also have a wonderful Director, Chinasa who continually takes the piece in surprising directions.

The play is described as "activism through art."  What is your ultimate goal for From Ashes to Angel's Dust?
Ashes is perfect for college campuses.  We have a whole host of programming surrounding the show. The show is just the first step.

The ultimate goal is world domination-what else???

From Ashes to Angel's Dust
by Zoë Flowers

Sunday, January 08 at 3:00PM
at Wild Project
195 East 3rd St. (btwn Avenues A & B)

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