Are you ready to rumble? Because you should be after hearing all the hype surrounding BOOM, a Charlotte showcase of experimental and contemporary performance and visual art, going down in Plaza Midwood the weekend of April 8-10.
Organized by staunch creatives who make up Que-Os — the collective responsible for Charlotte's Pecha Kucha — BOOM features cutting-edge entertainment from Q.C. groups like XOXO, OnQ and Taproot.
Sarah Emery (former artistic director of Moving Poets Charlotte), who moved to Jacksonville, Florida, last year, pays us a worthwhile visit. Other local, regional and national artists will offer obscure and surreal works, along with live music, art installations and pop-up street performances throughout the three-day extravaganza.
Director Manoj Kesavan created BOOM to highlight Charlotte-based talent that leans towards a more independent and innovative side of the arts scene. In doing this, he also hopes to connect various facets of the Q.C. arts community. Obviously, inspired by the likes of festivals like Fringe in Edinburgh, Scotland — OnQ often crosses the pond for this one — BOOM is still taking baby steps. Kesavan admits to having to turn away some groups in order to keep the event smaller for its premiere.
Back in 2012, the folks behind BOOM organized the Quasimodo Project, an initiative that brought musicians, spoken word artists, visual artists, and performance artists together for pop-up street gigs during the Democratic National Convention.
Then in 2013, Charlotte got a taste of what another event of this caliber could look like with Queen City Fringe. Though unrelated to BOOM and organized by James Cartee, the event sprawled across venues in NoDa, Plaza Midwood, Elizabeth and Uptown.
But BOOM presents festival-goers with a different kind of experience, leaning even harder toward avant-garde and out-of-the-box experiences. Kicking off with Pecha Kucha on Thursday, the showcase packs a powerful punch. We've listed some of the locally-produced seasonings below, but hit up www.boomcharlotte.org to see everything that's on the plate.
Taproot's Dinner Bell: A Field Guide to Impolite Southern Conversation
When: April 8, 9 p.m.; April 9, 6 p.m.; April 10, 4:30 p.m.
In its early evolution, this work began as a collaboration between Taproot and Breathing Art Company, an Italian performance company who visited Charlotte last year. But over the past nine months members of Taproot have taken the piece to another level. They've done extensive research on Southern writing and history, while honing their storytelling techniques at Charlotte Storytellers workshops. The show looks at religion, patriarchy and racism in the South. And then, there's food. King Caterers is providing greens, deviled eggs, biscuits and dessert for the work, which uses the bites to bring unity to the table. "The focus never turns toward an accusation or a sense of 'us' and 'them.' This show is about the 'we' and how coming together is an essential part of our growth forward," says Taproot's founder Brianna Smith, who describes the show as being more fun than serious. There's even an interactive component. "We are going to encourage audiences to get to know one another during certain parts of the show. We also ask for stories from the audience at one point, if audience members feel so inclined," Smith says. "We're going to sing and tell stories and dance around and eat. It's a Southern performance dinner party."
OnQ's Mo' Betta
When: April 8, 7:30 p.m.; April 9, 12 p.m.; April 10, 6 p.m.
Directed by Quentin "Q" Talley, Mo' Betta is a performance-art piece that mixes poetry, dance, comedy and film. Spike Lee's film of the same name inspired this work that's described as "a contemporary take on classic cabaret, vaudeville and variety shows popular in the '30s." Talley says he drew influence from the film's jazz club setting and the plotline of interpersonal relationships between the band and staff for the show. "It takes those elements of the show behind-the-scenes and brings them to the forefront," he says. Live music is orchestrated by OnQ's music director, Tim Scott Jr.
XOXO's I Won't Hurt You
Where: Snug Harbor
When: April 8, 6 p.m.; April 9, 1:30 p.m.; April 10, 9 p.m.
Emotions are running high for this XOXO piece. It delves into the kind of feelings that could potentially send anyone off to the funny farm. But this one is all about love, including the elated butterfly emotions you have at the beginning and the gut-wrenching wounds that seem to stab you right in the heart after it all goes wrong. Themes related to loss and love, both romantic and cosmic, and God are explored during the show, which intends to serve as a sort of ritual of healing for broken hearts. Anyone who came out to the Skyline finale at the Goodyear-turned-arts-space got a glimpse of this work in its early stages of development. "We are attempting to heal ourselves and perhaps offer our audiences a glimpse of what healing might look like. It's a show about heartbreak that is hopeful for the future," says Cosper, who you'll get to see sporting a big, burly bear costume.
Sarah Emery's Threads of Color
Where: Open Door Studios
When: April 8, 6 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.; April 10, 7:30 p.m.
For Threads of Color, Emery was inspired by visual art from ArtPop Street Gallery artists. "The idea of creating dance works inspired by various paintings on Charlotte billboards was a challenge I wanted to explore," Emery says. She chose seven ArtPop images and then made a full-length dance work inspired by each image. The art also motivated artists to take their creativity to the dressing room. Costumes were designed by ArtPop artists — including Ruth Ava Lyons, Sharon Dowell, Jonathan Grauel, Rocio Llusca, Flavia Isabel Lovatelli and Marcee Musgrove — some of who also make up Eco Couture. The show will feature 10 dancers, including Emery. Together, they'll be accompanied by a few visual art pieces and an audio/video component, which includes poetry written and recorded by Behailu students. Emery is happy to be visiting Charlotte and hopes to do more projects in the area in the future. "It has been great to still feel connected to the city and the artists in it during my transition to Florida," she says.