Requiem for a Stranger
& The Gorgeous Offerings
at New Orleans' Contemporary Arts Center
Requiem for a Stranger is an expansive work of music, movement-theater, interactive design, and sacred spaces created by physical theater company Vagabond Inventions and Singer-Composer Renee Benson. This episodic, ensemble-devised project explores the wild heartspace of grief.
Requiem was conceived in 2019 and devised from inside the pandemic’s tide of loss. The work draws inspiration from texts by adrienne maree brown, Rainer Maria Rilke, the healer Martín Prechtel, and the creators’ intimate losses to conjure an epic love song for the stage.
Requiem for a Stranger is the culmination of the year-long community-focused project,
“The Gorgeous Offerings.”
FALL 2021 - FALL 2022
The Offerings, conceived and directed by Renee Benson, are a series of community rites, healing workshops, and a meditative film project that will precede the premiere of Requiem for a Stranger. These events, open to all, are created to respond to the particular burden of grief held in the BIPOC community.
Artwork by Alaina Comeaux
Photos by Julie Verlinden
“The work is powerful; Benson’s vocals are haunting.”
Laurie Uprichard, Executive Artistic Director, Firkin Crane, Cork, Ireland
“I was holding my breath throughout. The performance really speaks to the process we all go through when we grieve.”
Carly Rogers, Social Worker serving young people in Jefferson Parish
“Really profound”... and provokes reflections
around our “cultural survival mechanisms.”
Jon Greene, Director of theater company, The Radical Buffoons
“Requiem is a vital, investigative, and deeply moving work.”
Frank Davis, former Program Director of the Contemporary Arts Center
“It's truly spectacular - the depth and craft... Each character inhabiting a particular part of the process of grief, with its own sonic and environmental journey.”
Donna Costello, Dance Artist, NYC
Co-Conception: Renee Benson and Jennifer Sargent
Performers: Renee Benson, Jessica Donley, Melanie Greene, and Jennifer Sargent
Directed by: Jennifer Sargent
Music Composed by: Renee Benson
Design by: Jeff Becker
Devising Dramaturg: Madison Krekel
Costume Design by: Ja'nese Brooks-Galathe
Anti-Colonial Dramaturg: Alaina Comeaux
Physical Dramaturg: Penelope McCourty
Social Justice & Producing Consultant: Renellta Arluk
Production Manager: India Mack
Devised collaboratively by Tricia Anderson, Jeff Becker, Renee Benson, Grace Booth,
Jessica Donley, Melanie Greene, Madison Krekel, Jalisa Roberts, Jennifer Sargent,
Shannon Stewart, and Mahalia Abéo Tibbs
Conceived and Directed by Renee Benson
Co-produced by India Mack and Jennifer Sargent
Supported by the Contemporary Arts Center's Inter[SECTOR] Residency
The “Gorgeous Offerings” address the manifestation of the Grief Body within the Black and Indigenous community in New Orleans and beyond. The Offerings are a series of community rituals and healing spaces that, together, form a transmedia storytelling project offering an array of resources across a year-long Inter[SECTOR] residency at New Orleans' Contemporary Arts Center. These events include: the experimental film, "The Black Ophelia," accompanied by community dialogue around Black women’s birthright to fragility in mourning; integrative health sessions led by staff from the Center for Mind Body Medicine; and workshops on “Grief Mapping” and anti-colonial/ anti-capitalist relationships to land and grief led by Raconteur Alaina Comeaux. The Offerings seek to draw a broad community into a process of honoring and healing our community’s losses.
Our "Offerings" Collaborators
Renee Benson is the co-visionary of Requiem for a Stranger as well as a pirate, EmC, singer, poet, producer, and education advocate.
Mindy Milam is a Social Worker who is on staff with The Center for Mind Body Medicine.
Janese Brooks-Galathe is the Co-Director of Aya Designs Global and an ordained Ancestor Priestess.
Alaina Comeaux is the Raconteur who created the Decolonized Walks of Bulbancha.
Jamaican born Jason Foster is an award winning film and video artist in New Orleans.
Artwork above by Alaina Comeaux
Artwork by Alaina Comeaux