An Invitation to Return: “Gomela” at Ashé Powerhouse Theater
BY TINA ORLANDINI, FEBRUARY 2, 2017
I first encountered the mesmerizing work of poet Sunni Patterson last year at a Junebug Productions event, Homecoming Project Congo Square—a participatory storytelling performance series based in New Orleans in which Patterson was one of several featured artists—and her seemingly improvised spoken-word performance was like none other I had experienced. Since then I have looked forward to more chances to witness what can only be described as supreme mastery of the written and performed word.
Still, Junebug’s latest production Gomela/to return: Movement of Our Mother Tongue, which was written by Patterson and directed by Stephanie McKee, surpassed my expectations, having an impact that only comes when art is elevated to its highest calling: transforming those who encounter it and (re)directing us on a path toward justice.
Review: Gomela/to Return: Movement of Our Mother Tongue
BY MARY RICKARD, JANUARY 25, 2017
Gomela/to Return: Movement of Our Mother Tongue, presented by Junebug Productions is one of the most innovative performances of the season, combining spoken word, movement, dance, photography and videography. Currently running at Ashe Power House, Gomela is a mesmerizing tapestry of creative forces that conveys the breadth of African-American history while emphasizing the resilience of black people.
Director Stephanie McKee, producer Kiyoko McCrae and poet Sunni Patterson studied under John O’Neal and Doris Derby, co-founders of Free Southern Theater, which became a major influence on the Black Arts Movement in the 1960s. Junebug Productions carries on Free Southern Theater’s mission to use the arts in support of civil rights, and Gomela touches on slavery, racial profiling, poverty, lack of opportunity, Hurricane Katrina and negative societal messages relating to the black community.
Know a Theatre: Junebug Productions of New Orleans
BY ALISON CONSIDINE, AUGUST 2, 2016
NEW ORLEANS: The Big Easy, with its nightlife, live music scene, and incomparable cuisine, might be best known for the thousands of tourists who flock to Bourbon Street each year to celebrate Mardi Gras. But in addition to the annual street party, residents and tourists alike enjoy theatrical entertainment year-round at several local venues.
One of the city’s oldest professional companies, Junebug Productions Inc. (JPI), has been bringing stories of the city’s rich history and current events to the stage and the streets since 1980. We spoke with artistic director Stephanie McKee via email to learn about the theatre’s beginnings and how the company sparks action through art.
Who founded Junebug Productions, when, and why?
Junebug Productions is the organizational successor to the Free Southern Theater (FST). In 1963, John O’Neal and Doris Derby, field secretaries of Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), cofounded FST with student leader Gilbert Moses to be a cultural wing of the SNCC. FST went on to become a major influence on the Black Arts Movement. In 1965, FST moved its base from Tougaloo College in Jackson, Miss., to New Orleans. It continued to use arts to support the Civil Rights movement through a community engagement program and training opportunities for locals interested in writing, performing, and producing theatre, as well as touring.