KANEZA SCHAAL & CHRISTOPHER MYERS are acclaimed New York City based visual and theater artists whose past works include GO FORTH, premiering to great acclaim as part of PS122’s COIL 2015. Kaneza Schaal’s creations follow an extraordinary history of work with Elevator Repair Service, The Wooster Group, Richard Maxwell/New York City Players, and New York City Opera bringing her to venues including Centre Pompidou, Royal Lyceum Theater Edinburgh, The Whitney Museum, Brooklyn Academy of Music, and MoMA. Her work has been supported by Baryshnikov Arts Center, Performance Space 122, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, Nathan Cummings Foundation, Foundation for Contemporary Arts, Theater Communications Group, Princess Grace George C. Wolfe Award, Bogliasco Fellowship, and Kara Walker’s 6-8 Months Space.
Award-winning illustrator Christopher Myers is the son of acclaimed author Walter Dean Myers. In 1998, the two collaborated on Harlem, which was named a Caldecott Honor Book as well as a Coretta Scott King Honor Book. Myers’ solo effort, Black Cat, was also a Coretta Scott King Honor Book. His most recent books include Firebird, written by Misty Copeland, Jake Makes a World written by Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts, and My Pen written by himself. The Kennedy Center has adapted three of Myers’ books to the stage for young audiences. His sculptural work has been shown at PS1-MoMA, Contrasts Gallery in Shanghai and the Sundance Film Festival. Most recently Myers was included in the Prospect Biennial in New Orleans, where he and his collaborators, the Propeller Group, organized a funeral march that went from Saigon to the Lower Ninth Ward.
Created, Co-Directed & Performed by Kaneza Schaal
Co-Directed & Designed by Christopher Myers
World Premiere – January, 2022
Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN
KLII exorcises the ghost of King Leopold II through a mytho-biographical performance by theater maker Kaneza Schaal. Designed by Christopher Myers the performance draws on archival footage from Belgian filmmaker André Cauvin’s documentary Bwana Kitoko, mixing colonial aesthetics with traditional East African design to create a heightened visual persona. Building on Mark Twain’s King Leopold’s Soliloquy published in 1905, a fictional monologue written after Twain’s visit to Congo Free State and Patrice Lumumba’s 1960 independence speech in Congo, KLII considers the residue of colonialism in our everyday lives. Working with East African musicians and African American opera singers, the sound design investigates La Muette de Portici, the opera that ignited Belgium’s 1830 revolution. Schaal says, “our work is a repossession of canon and resituating of this canon within our own histories as black people.” KLII explores the nature of evil and the simultaneous looking inward and looking outward required to unroot legacies of catastrophic events.
KLII is a National Performance Network (NPN) Creation & Development Fund Project co-commissioned by Walker Art Center (Minneapolis, MN) with funds from the National Endowment for the Arts, in partnership with Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, REDCAT and NPN/VAN. The Creation & Development Fund is supported by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts (a federal agency). KLII was co-commissioned as part of the Eureka Commissions program by the Onassis Foundation.
KLII exorcises the ghost of Belgium’s King Leopold II through a mytho-biographical performance by theater-maker Kaneza Schaal. Designed and codirected by Christopher Myers, KLII draws on Mark Twain’s King Leopold’s Soliloquy (1905), a fictional monologue written after Twain’s visit to the Congo Free State, and Patrice Lumumba’s 1960 independence speech in the Congo. Increasingly our demons are invisible—long-hidden racism and misogyny, misinformation, even the virus. How do we handle these threats, which are as central to our everyday life as they are hidden? Schaal and Myers propose an exorcism in theater, starring one of the villains of the 19th century whose actions resonate through the present day.
Conceived and Created by Kaneza Schaal & Christopher Myers
Directed by Kaneza Schaal
Written & Designed by Christopher Myers
Produced by ArKtype / Thomas O. Kriegsmann
Lighting & Production Management by Chelsie McPhilimy
Interactive Video Design by Joshue Ott (US)with Pierre Depaz, Grace Huang, Andrija Klaric, and Mateo Juvera Molina (Abu Dhabi)
Technical Direction by Cheyanne Williams
Stage Management by Kendall Allen
World Premiere – January 11-13, 2019
John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Washington, DC
CARTOGRAPHY was made possible by a generous grant from The Joyce Foundation, and is a co-commission of The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, The Arts Center at NYU Abu Dhabi, and Playhouse Square, Cleveland, OH, with developmental support provided by Young People’s Theatre, Toronto, Canada and the Center for the Arts, Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT.
A 17-year-old boy from Syria wonders aloud if he ought to learn German, or will he be going home too soon for it to be of use.
An 11-year-old girl from Afghanistan imagines that one day she could be a back-up dancer for Justin Bieber. Even this imagination is a conceptual leap for her parents, rural farmers from a small town far from the capital Kabul, the distance of which rivals the thousand-mile trek she just completed on foot.
A boy from Mali imagines himself flying to all the great world cities he’s only seen in photos.
One young woman draws the map of her journey to Munich, wavy blue lines between Turkey and Greece mark the night her brother slipped over the side of an inflatable raft into the cold hands of the Mediterranean.
A girl cherishes the recording of her mother’s voice she keeps on her cell phone.
All of these young people are making maps of their history, of their memories, and of their futures.
Schaal and Myers have recorded these maps.
Layered stories full of tragedy and wonder of young migrants from all over the world form the bases for a theatrical intervention, a scaffolding of sorts around which a performance rooted in the commonalities of migration, the intertwining of identities that are the byproduct of this current set of crises is created, and the concrete and metaphorical cartography at center of all of these worlds in motion.
CARTOGRAPHY utilizes many of the tools that Schaal and Myers have developed in their long careers thinking about identity, young people, and contemporary arts, and working with various groups of immigrant children both in the US and abroad. Visual tools such as map-making and inventory meet performance tools like storytelling, filmmaking, and sculpture building to create a catalog of both interior and exterior journeys, and the pitfalls and triumphs of each.
Performances are accompanied by workshops for local immigrant and refugee communities, modeled off Schaal and Myers’ collaboration in Munich with refugee youth from over 12 different countries. CARTOGRAPHY is constructed with three expandable and contractible sections that allow for materials from these local workshops, or performances by workshop participants, to be included in the production during the run at each venue.
Developed as part of New Victory Lab Works at The New Victory Theater in New York City, and at The Performing Garage as part of The Performing Garage Presents Residency Program This play was workshopped and presented as a rehearsed reading in April 2018 at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts as part of New Visions/New Voices 2018.
Stage: Blackbox / Proscenium
Traveling Personnel: 10
Running time: 80 minutes
Availability: 2019-21 Worldwide OPEN
Oct 22 – Nov 13, 2023 | LA Opera, Los Angeles, CA
Worldwide dates TBA.
Feb 25-27, 2021 | Firstworks | Providence, RI
April 15, 2021 | Moss Arts Center, Virginia Tech | Blacksburg, VA
Sept 22-25, 2021, Shenandoah Conservatory, Winchester, VA
Oct 1-2, 2021, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA
Oct 5-6, 2021, Millersville University, Millersville, PA
Oct 9-10, 2021, Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, Pittsburgh, PA
Oct 11-15, 2021, Center for the Performing Arts, State College, PA
Oct 18-21, 2021, Modlin Center, Richmond, VA
Oct 27-30, 2021, Arizona Arts Live, Tucson, AZ
Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2021, Flynn Center for the Performing Arts, Burlington, VT
Nov 3-6, 2021, Portland Ovations, Portland, ME
Nov 6-8, 2021, Pinkerton Academy, Derry, NH
Nov 15-18, 2021, Lied Center, Lawrence, KS