Black Anthology navigates pandemic restrictions

Black Anthology, first student-run cultural show to return to Edison, navigates pandemic restrictions to produce 32nd show

 | Contributing Writer 

 

Black Anthology, a student-run cultural group, is showcasing their first production since COVID-19 took center stage on Saturday, March 13, at 7 p.m.

The production is “a cultural show that allows for a spotlight to be presented on issues that are of importance to Black students, using mediums of acting and dance to convey those themes,” show producer senior Sophia Kamanzi explained.

Show art designed by Bread Lee, courtesy of Black Anthology

This is the second year Kamanzi is producing Black Anthology. Having been a part of the executive team since freshman year, Kamanzi has experienced many memorable performances, but perhaps none as unique as this year’s. Black Anthology will be the first cultural show to broadcast a performance virtually from Edison Theatre, where the performance normally would’ve taken place in-person this past February.

Kamanzi said there were some parts of the production experience that were more difficult to convert to the virtual setting than others. “I was definitely less worried about things translating to the audience and more about the actors, because I feel like a lot of performance is feeding off the audience’s energy and that’s not what they were able to do,” she said.

Yet the production team was able to navigate these restrictions by clapping off-camera for one another to allow for some feeling of normalcy. Although this year’s production was anything but normal, Kamanzi feels the experience is just as authentic as it would be in-person.

While there were various obstacles regarding the University’s COVID restrictions, senior Julia Stewart, the Black Anthology choreographer for the past three years, is also optimistic about the outcome.

“I think, in terms of dance, because we filmed off-campus then filmed dancers one at a time to make sure there was no COVID transmission, they will definitely look different,” Stewart said, “but I think the different settings that we got actually might add to the production, which is not something we can do in Edison, so hopefully that’ll be one plus that came with re-navigating.”

With the show selling out its last two productions, Kamanzi expects there to be a large turnout. She explained that their audience reaches beyond the Wash. U. campus and into the St. Louis community as a whole. Regardless of the particular theme they choose for that year, Kamanzi said, “We want the audience to leave with kind of a new perspective on it and maybe hoping that we portray the issue in a way that allows them to think about it in a way they weren’t thinking about it previously, or at least get them asking questions.”

Stewart said that because the production is completely student-run, the central themes and subthemes tend to be based on the lived experiences of both Black students and the Black community as a whole. Yet Kamanzi still emphasized the value in the production for all members of their audience. “For people who are not Black and [for whom] this isn’t their lived experience,” she said, the show is about “allowing them to see, learn and hear our stories through our voices.”

To further unpack the themes that will be presented, Black Anthology will host a post-show discussionSunday, March 14, at 1 p.m. After registering for the show on a Google form found on their Instagram page (@bawustl) as well as on their Facebook page (Black Anthology), viewers will be able to access the show on Vimeo for free. They will then receive a follow-up link for the post-show panel discussion the next day.

Editor’s Note: Senior Cadenza Editor Sabrina Spence is the stage manager for Black Anthology. She was not involved with the production of this article.