(HERE Artist Residency Program)

The Black History Museum According to the United States of America Zoey Martinson

Show Description

The Black History Museum According to the United States of America explores the fraught relationship between Black Americans and the criminal justice system by examining how black history is presented in schools and the media. The performance takes the form of a theatrical museum exhibit featuring different “lessons” about black history. Black History Museum grew out of the town hall meetings held after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri along with controversy around #BlackLivesMatter vs #AllLivesMatter movements. Bringing up issues including the militarization of the police, dehumanization of African American's in the media, the economic marginalization of black communities and will explore why and how these issues continue from one generation to the next. The piece will go up at HERE and will use the entire space ( dressing rooms, hallways, cafe area, sidewalk space outdoors, and the two theatre spaces.)

Headshot photo by Christopher Rodriguez Bautista

Project photo by Nasan Fitz Henley

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Artist Bio

Director/ Creator Zoey Martinson has worked at the crossroads of arts and advocacy for over ten years. She founded Bright Future Arts International in Ghana West Africa after working as a teacher and humanitarian aid worker at the Liberian refugee camp in Ghana with children who had been recruited as solders in the war. Bright Future worked with children in 7 schools throughout Ghana teaching children how to address policy through the performing arts. She continued her work in London with children of Tibetan Refugees, in South Africa at the community organization Afrika Tikkun, Theater in the Muz, and NYC with All Stars Project and Boys and Girls high school in Brooklyn. Ms. Martinson often works with advocacy organizations in creation of her work. In 2015 she was a moderation for the Black Porturatures Confrenece in Florence Italy where black artists, scholars, scientists and advocates were invite to discuss the modern "Blackness". The conference was featured on the BBC. Recently she organized a Arts Mission for theConsulate General of the United States of America to conduct theatre workshops in South Africa’s informal settlements.
Zoey has directed theatre in Ghana, South Africa, Berlin Germany, New York City, Los Angeles and at NYU Grad Acting. Co-Founding Artistic Director of Smoke & Mirrors Collaborative and the recipient of 2013/14 Artistic Mentor Fellowship at Lincoln Center through the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. As a writer her play OLITYELWE (Formally known as Ndebele Funeral) won the Overall Excellence Award for Best Play in the NYCFringe Festival, then went on to run off broadway 59E59 Theaters, South Africa, and Summerhall's Main Hall at The Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Scotland. Her work has been nominated for Amnesty International Freedom of Expression Award and she has been featured on BBC World Service. Her current play on Immigration was developed at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. She has written short plays for The Fire This Time Festival, and 48 Hours in Harlem, NYC and a Web Series. Skype Duet that she co-created and directed won the 100 Grand award at the HAU2 Theater in Berlin, Germany. As an actress she has performed at The Public Theater, Cleveland Playhouse, Repertory Theater of St. Louis, the Guthrie, Shakespeare On The Sound, The Flea Theatre, Theatre in the Muz, South Africa and the National Theatre of Ghana. Film/TV: "Are We There Yet", "Restless City","Law & Order." MFA NYU Grad Acting.

Smoke & Mirrors Collaborative is a nonprofit production company that creates original works for theater and the web that combine socially relevant themes with an ambitious, multi-disciplinary approach to storytelling. Our intent is to give voice to unfamiliar and underrepresented stories in the most relatable, entertaining, and idiosyncratic way possible while challenging our audience's assumptions about the world around them. We have produced theater Off-Broadway, festivals, internationally, and media for the web. Our work is created through extensive research and partnerships with our community, artists of all mediums and backgrounds, and other nonprofit advocacy institutions.

Artist Statement

I come from a multi racial perspective and growing up as a “Black” American I remember being taught what that meant. My mother is “White” American and although I’m a product of her progressive thoughts, deranged humor, political beliefs, and family values my mother and I grew up in a vastly different country because of the color of our skin. This intrigues me. My mother’s America vs my own. The Black History Museum is my personal journey into the “Black” American identity. From the moment I was told what ethnic box to check on a test or official form to learning about slavery. The racial tension in this country is heavy, and no matter what race you are this tension affects you. As a child we absorb and grow up in this tension without noticing that our culture and education is defining our identity in this country. I’m interested in dissecting that Identity. The “Black” identity that has been given to me and that I have taken on with pride. What does it mean to be black in modern America? What defines that identity? I’m interested in my communities discussion around this topic. I’m interested in giving an audience the experience of what that means to be taught your identity through common core or pop culture. I’m just interested in exploring a new narrative. To achieve this I need as many minds in the room, since we all come with our individual life experiences along with our biases. The poets, visual artists, musicians, writers, actors and choreographer that I invite to work on the project posses a similar passion to collaborate and dissect their own identity around “Black” America. The community town hall’s are important because I want to continually check in with the heartbeat of current discussion and ethos around these issues. 

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