Requiem for a Stranger
"grief is the growing up of the heart
that bursts boundaries like an old skin or a finished life"
adrienne maree brown
Photos by Sarrah Danziger
Requiem for a Stranger
Requiem for a Stranger is an expansive work of music, movement-theater, and sacred spaces created by physical theater company Vagabond Inventions in collaboration with Singer-Composer Renee Benson. This episodic, ensemble-devised project explores the heartspace of grief - an emotion that mainstream American culture habitually avoids, but which currently overwhelms our daily life.
Although initially conceived pre-pandemic, this timely project has met the moment of the Covid-19 crisis - and the way a recognizable present is transforming into a lost past. Drawing inspiration from the poetry of adrienne maree brown, Nikki Giovanni, Rainer Maria Rilke, and the intimate experiences of the creators, Requiem presents a journey of dynamic movement, original sound, live music, and a kinetic set by Jeff Becker. The work conjures a world of disorientation - a storm where all realities dissolve except love and absence. Between disordered memory and attempts to delay time, wailing, rapping, and song tell the story of drowning in mythological rivers and calling to the ether in praise.
Vagabond Inventions & Renee Benson
Vagabond Inventions, directed by Jennifer Sargent, is an award-winning association of physical theater artists who share a language of ensemble-devised performance. The company’s highly physical productions explore worlds in disequilibrium: unmoored feminine identity at midlife; migrants waiting in an immigration office; social biases that survive even the apocalypse. VI co-produced the Definitive Figures FemFest (named a 2018 "highlight" by the Gambit) at which the company's dance-theater duet Jitterbug and the Aftermath received a Classical Arts Award nomination for "Outstanding Dance Presentation (Short)". The company has created seven shows and over a dozen short works that have performed in seven countries and in nationally respected venues including Detroit’s Sidewalk Festival; NACL Theatre in NY state; NYC’s Bushwick Starr and Chocolate Factory; and NPN’s 2019 "Live&Onstage" conference Showcase.
Renee Benson is a New Orleans based singer, songwriter, poet and composer. On the stage, her dynamic and rhythmically challenging phrasing calls her listeners to break away from the world of the overstimulated to the world of the living. As a singer (jazz, hip hop, soul, funk, gospel, reggae and more), she has been featured on TV, Radio and film. She has performed at the Glastonbury Music Festival, as part of the Austrian entry for Eurovision, and at Vienna’s LifeBall. Renee is the lead voice for the experimental jazz and hip hop collective, "No Home For Johnny," labeled Vienna’s 2015 Popfest “highlight”. Off stage, Renee teaches at Banff Centre of the Arts on Faculty for the Indigenous Arts and freelances as the hip hop educational consultant for the Hamilton Education Program. With Austria’s Vogelberg Jazz Orchestra, Renee is the performing vocalist for a commissioned original experimental opera she co-created with composer Vincent Pongracz.
Co-Conception: Renee Benson and Jennifer Sargent
Performers: Renee Benson, Grace Booth, Jalisa Roberts, and Jennifer Sargent
Directed by: Jennifer Sargent
Music/ Sound Composed by: Renee Benson
Design by: Jeff Becker
Light Co-Designed by: Jo Nazro
Costume Consultation by: AYA Designs Global
Anti-Colonial Dramaturg: Alaina Comeaux
Physical Dramaturg: Penelope McCourty
Devised collaboratively by: Tricia Anderson, Jeff Becker, Renee Benson,
Grace Booth, Jalisa Roberts, and Jennifer Sargent
with early trainings by Donna Costello