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Crossing A Deep River

Crossing A Deep River, an experimental ensemble work for actors, musicians and dancers, celebrates the survival of African people in the New World, using language, music and movement to convey overlapping stories dealing with the truths of the human heart. Crossing a Deep Riveris to be built from this script. During rehearsal, director and actors work out transitions and connections for a work in progress, including a ritual for lost souls and disembodied spirits, those who died in the slave trade, far from the familiar groves of their birth, forgotten anddisremembered.

An African American Odyssey...

This is the odyssey of Şeéwo, a writer who seeks her African ancestors lost to recorded history. Born in the American South in the late 20th century, Şeéwo discovers a way to move to an earlier time, and finds herself on the West African coast in the middle 1700’s.

Unseen in a grim fortress used to detain captive Africans, she listens to teen-agers Quobna and Amma, as they speak to each other through dungeon walls, recounting their captures. Amidst the weeping and lamentation of the voices of people of many nations, Şeéwo re-members the extraordinary confusion faced by those of different ethnic groups thrown together in strange surroundings.

Later, aboard the Lark, a slaving vessel, Amma falls ill, succumbing to a dream-like dementia induced by severe dehydration. Şeéwo is “born again” as Efua Asanté, Amma’s mother. In Amma’s memory, Efua and Amma relive Amma’s womanhood initiation rite together, as Efua/Şeéwo travels with her symbolic kin.

Nago and the sailors force the newly captive men to “dance or die.” Rebelling, Quobna and the other African men refuse to throw the dying Amma overboard. Urged on by the women and led by Quobna, they beat back their captors, and take Amma into the hold with them, determined that she will not be disrespected in either the spirit or the flesh. When she does die, in sight of land, they refuse to surrender her body.

Arriving at an unnamed island in the West Indies (Babiana), Quobna is greeted by an elder who teaches the arrivals how to convert their dance of enslavement (the limbo) into a ritual of remembrance for Amma and others who have died in the passage. This rite also guides ancestral guardians to find their African children in the New World, and celebrates known and unknown descendants who survived the Middle Passage to continue the struggle for freedom throughout the African Diaspora. Finally, Şeéwo comes home to the present, but she brings Efua, Amma and Quobna back with her.