Fade is what they refuse to do. Disappearing into the background is not going to happen. Fighting to ensure their fate does not befall the youth of future generations is what they are doing with all their might. And they are healing through the redemptive power of words.
FADE is a new play by Coler Hospital-based non-profit Open Doors opening this weekend at Main Street Theatre and Dance Alliance's Howe Theatre. Joel Francois and the Open Doors 'Reality Poets' take you into The Barbershop, where humor and courage turn violence and injustice into a redemptive force.
Directed by Shawn Williams, FADE is a staged production that is based on the real-life stories of men who use wheelchairs because of gun violence that is set to a hip-hop beat. The cathartic power of storytelling is how this handful of young men are finding a release, a way to lay their burdens down and connect with the world.
The idea of young men in wheelchairs, young men paralyzed by gun violence is heart wrenching and unspeakably sad. That is, until you hear them speak. When you hear them tell their stories, you realize how much power they still have. FADE gives breath back to the lungs of these young men whose lives have been irrevocably altered in the flash of a millisecond in which a bullet tore into the flesh and severed nerves. They tell others what they have been through, how there was a time before this when they still had the choice of where they wanted to put their feet, before spinal chord damage and the burden of all this metal and machinery.
Based at Coler Hospital, a long-term care facility on the northern tip of the Island, Open Doors is an arts and justice initiative. Headed by its founder and director, Islander Jennilie Brewster, Open Doors works to improve members lives through creativity workshops, leadership training, and educational grants. They collaborate with established artists, and its members use storytelling, hip-hop and spoken word to challenge audiences to combat the injustice that breeds violence in our cities. Recently they published a poetry anthology called Wheeling and Healing.
Many of us may realize that we live in a society where guns are all too prevalent, where children as young as kindergarteners are being taken out in mass shootings, while going to school. But we don’t necessarily want to deal with the aftermath, the result of all these guns. The tragedy may be hard to take in. We may avert our eyes, overwhelmed with pity, or ashamed at our own freedom to put one foot in front of the other. This show presents an opportunity that we should not squander, a chance to be changed as they pull us into their hearts.
MSTDA Executive Director Krist Towey says that this is the first time Open Doors and MSTDA have collaborated. “I’m really excited to present different work and to give these artists the opportunity to express themselves in a whole new way. For the community it gives insight into their lives, and I hope to reach a whole new audience. It’s an important message and something communities need to hear, whether they have experienced similar situations or not. I would love to help them expose this to more audiences.”
In the background of the stage there is a larger than life painting of a clenched fist holding a flower. Anger, when it is given an outlet, gives rise to glory. Poetry with a hip-hop beat. Authentic, real, uncensored. Words that are not always pretty, but filled with grit and calling us to a deeper understanding of not only who they are, but who we are as a society. Because when we open our eyes, when we dare to look and listen, we might care more to make meaningful change toward a more peaceful society, where human life is valued, where we understand what we have before it is gone.
Tickets for sale here. Showtimes are June 29 at 3pm, and 7pm.