As a part of Street Signs' Acts of Witness event, involving rotating performances of Athol Fugard's Blood Knot and the Sacrificial Poets' Poetic Portraits of a Revolution, the Poets made their debut performance at the Carrboro ArtsCenter. The show ties into Fugard's apartheid-challenging Blood Knot by presenting an insider's look at the Arab Spring revolutions occurring last year in Egypt and Tunisia, sharing perspectives about what the word "revolution" really means and how to fight for what one believes in.
Acts of Witness is presented in honor of playwright Athol Fugard, who will be visiting the week of March 19th and viewing the presentation of Blood Knot on the 20th. The project is a collaborative and thought-provoking one that happened through director Joseph Megel's creativity and artistic vision, connecting seemingly-remote occurrences in South Africa, Egypt, and Tunisia to issues much closer to home, like the Arizona citizenship disputes and even how hard the transition from Durham to Chapel Hill can be for a student! Kane Smego, who participated in the field work leading to Poetic Portraits, explained after the show that the "pyramid of hate" begins with lack of understanding and connectedness, so "appealing to the people" and making things more relevant is the first step to breaking down that pyramid.
Armed with a camcorder and their artists' curiosity, recent UNC-Chapel Hill graduates Smego and Will McInerney, with NC State student Mohammad Moussa and graduate Sameer Abdel-Khalek, traveled across the ocean to interview revolutionaries, fighters, and observers. They wanted to see what the revolutions were really like, gaining a perspective on the actual people who made the revolutions happen.
The result is Poetic Portraits of a Revolution, a multimedia presentation made up of original music by Stephen Levitin (aka Apple Juice Kid), video and pictures taken by the travelers, and a creative blend of poems, spoken word, and narration performed by Smego and McInerney. So much media could have been overwhelming, but all elements of the show interacted beautifully, presenting detailed portraits of the people and events the men saw overseas. As stated in the show, "revolutions are always happening," and "sometimes war and peace" wear "the same suit to the party." The poetry brought up a lot of empathy from the audience, and in true spoken word style, spontaneous finger-snapping broke out often throughout the show.
Tuesday's show was followed by a panel discussion with the writers and performers, director, several staff members and Ph.D. students at UNC, and historians. The discussion brought up the question: What can be done now, after the show has been presented, with the information and insight it has gathered? McInerney, who was actually very ill but who had nonetheless given a highly moving performance, said, "Our goal [with this show] was not to entertain." Instead it was meant to educate.
The show means to inspire people to ask "How can we continue this project? How can we deconstruct what we've seen?" explained McInerney. Abdel-Khalek further explained that the goal was to highlight "talents … we utilize for the good"; whether people have talent in poetry, videography, or anything else, they can put it towards a good cause.
Acts of Witness continues with another performance of Poetic Portraits on Thursday, March 8th and Blood Knot on Friday the 9th. On Saturday the 10th, both shows will be presented as one event, with Blood Knot at 8:00 p.m., followed by Poetic Portraits at 10:00 p.m.. Sunday the 11th will run similarly, with Blood Knot at 3:00 p.m. and Poetic Portraits at 8:00 p.m. Blood Knot will then run on the 19th and 20th at 7:30 p.m., with a reception on the 20th in honor of the visiting Athol Fugard. For details, see the sidebar.