Written by Nia O. Witherspoon Choreographed by Ni'Ja Whitson
Messiah is a love story. Or many.
Featuring a predominately Black, queer and trans cast and creative team, Messiah is a play about the legacy of the Panthers in the age of crack, where a scratch at a DJ booth incites a replay of the past, an action that interrogates generations of violence on black, queer bodies. Set to the sound of hip-hop, the ring shout, and the wailing of ghosts, Messiah must find a way home.
Malika, a teenager on the trans-spectrum, creates an alter-ego named Messiah, a popular basketball-ball star and aspiring rapper. Messiah brings ritual into the theater, shifting from the secular to the sacred through rites already present in black life—the frenzy of a nightclub, the libations poured on street corners, and the sonic landscapes of hip hop. Ultimately, Messiah tells a story of recognition, revolution and forgiveness.
"Through its prophetic and poetic protest,
'Messiah' gives me renewed faith in the possibility of social transformation." -Cherríe Moraga,
co-editor of This Bridge Called My Back
“Never before have I seen so many nuanced themes in an all Black cast…
Messiah deeply explores how limited ideas of masculinity and femininity, and constructions of ‘man’ and ‘woman’
hit us doubly hard as Black people
and hit us immeasurably deep as queer Black people.” - Melanie Laura, Auto Straddle
“The revelry was reminiscent of a Harlem house party
where bodies moved to familiar beats.” - Gregory King, Thinking Dance
“Emotional. Ritual. Hate. Fear. I’m normally a fan of the tongue-in-cheek,
but there were no tongues last night, only truth:
raw, straightforward and measurable.” - Sondra Fink, Psycho-Girl
“Messiah cuts deep into the emotional, spiritual, and literal incarceration of black people.
It’s about the residue from slavery that sticks to our skin and lives in our spirits.” - Melanie Laura, Auto Straddle
“An orchestra of voices and themes, Messiah was a reminder of the ideological parallels
between the Black Civil Rights and the LGBT movements, showing Messiah’s struggle to assert his identity
and liberate his queer back body amidst systemic subjugation.” - Gregory King, Thinking Dance
About the Artists
NIA O. WITHERSPOON is a Brooklyn-based theatre maker, vocalist/composer, and cultural worker. Described as “especially fascinating” by Backstage Magazine, Witherspoon’s work creates contemporary ritual-space grounded in African-diaspora sensibilities to speak to the issues of our times. Her work has been commissioned by The Shed, JACK, and BRIC, and developed at NYTW, BAX/Brooklyn Arts Exchange, and HERE.