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A performance workshop that would explore the personal root stories of the African presence in Europe

Edris Cooper-Anifowoshe

My name is Edris Cooper-Anifowoshe. I am a performing artist, scholar and teacher. I am writing you from Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado where I teach acting in the BFA in Performance program. I realize also that I may be some hours late on this but I wanted to submit it to you all the same.

I am a scholar who is just beginning research on Black Europe. My particular area of interest is in the performance practices of the European Diaspora, the history as well as the future.

I am interested in stimulating interest in Black theatre and performance in Europe outside of England and working in collaboration with Black artists and scholars.

My interest in being at the conference is wide as I am at the very beginning of my research and, despite having spent a bit of time in Switzerland, Germany and England, have very little knowledge of my African descended brothers and sisters in Europe. I am very excited about the conference and feel that I have to be there. My proposal for participation is thus:

A performance workshop that would explore the personal root stories of the African presence in Europe. The participants in the workshop would work towards a final performance that would explore who is here, where they came from and why they came, what they found and their fears and hopes for the present and future of Black Europe. (Participants would ideally be Black Europeans and those with relationships to Black Europeans with the term with the term "Black Europe" being examined as well).

I work with a form that takes personal and family stories, memories, incidents, genealogy, tragedies, triumphs,songs, orikis, poetry, and other remnants of personal and cultural legacy to embody them for performance. It is autobiographical theatre, self-scripting, deconstructive and reconstructive.

A series of prompters guides participants to explore memory and history:

First memory?
What's in your name?
Mother and Father? Grandmother? Uncle?
First words? In English? German?
Lost moment? Triumphs? Defeats? Leavings?
Cheated Death? Birth? Rebirth?
Encounters? Love? Repulsion? Alienations? Friendships? Sprits? Spirituality? Legends? Myths?

All in relationship to where the participant enters the subject of the workshop 'Black Europe'
My experience with this form grew out of my own solo performance work, my years coaching solo performers and playwrights in development and my work with Rhodessa Jones' Medea Project: Theatre For Incarcerated Women, where for more than 10 years I assisted incarcerated women in the San Francisco city jails take their personal histories and current situations through an artistic examination process that incorporated Greek (and other cultures) myths. Yearly, we worked with about 30 women turning their stories into narratives, monologues, vignettes, dance and song which were then fused together into one production. This highly successful, critically acclaimed series of productions served to help the participants examine the patterns of behavior that resulted in incarceration while simultaneously illuminating for the public the patterns of the larger society that impacted their lives thereby creating a relationship between the public and incarcerated women. I have since taken the work - in the form of the proposed workshop - to youth programs, university drama programs and oral history projects.

I feel that the workshop could serve the conference as an alternative way of investigating the notion, identity and formation of a Black Europe. By examination of the information through artistic practice, a bit of rewiring is possible, adding layers of understanding that can reach into dimension(S) that ,perhaps, may be limited by formal scholarship.

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