October 2018 – Red Sky, a new musical play, was co-written by Chuk Obasi (with Cheryl Paley) and choreographed by Kimani Fowlin. Both teach in Drew’s nationally ranked Theatre and Dance Department.
The musical, excerpts of which were performed at The Kraine Theatre in New York City, tackles the political and social turbulence of 2018 America. So, the timing of the East Village performance—just before Election Day—was deliberate as the play aims to be a call to action. Next, Obasi, Fowlin and Paley, who’s also the director, hope to bring Red Sky to off-Broadway. Fowlin talked to Drew.edu about the creative process.
How did you get involved in this project?
Chuk and I have an artistic partnership inside and outside of Drew. One of my loves is collaborating with playwrights and this political musical allows me another opportunity to collaborate with acclaimed artists and social activists. Theatre for social change is a powerful platform to engage and I feel fortunate to allow my art to speak truth.
How are you approaching the choreography?
It is political theatre. So, it is very much about theatre for social change and justice. It’s about creating images and gestures that bleed into movement or shape striking tableaus that come to life. These shapes and movements are strongly connected to the script, to the characters and to the lyrics of the song.
What’s the desired effect?
To provoke you to think and transform that thought to action. In this political and fantastical Brechtian style play, I wish for the audience to become engaged and to hear the urgent call to use their right to vote. Find a way to act and make a change.
What are the challenges of performing in a small theatre?
It’s an intimate space and that’s exciting for me when choreographing. I’m breaking down that fourth wall, so performers will be engaging with the audience in close quarters. We are all in this together and this close proximity reminds us of this concept.
What made you want to do this?
I trust Chuk because we’ve worked on many projects together. So, when he brings me in to do something, I go in full faithful, trusting. In this artistic process, I am constantly learning about who I am, who we are and always how to be a better collaborator in life. So, I just love having that opportunity to work with these phenomenal artists and sharing the gift of art. It’s such a beautiful way to be in community with people—saying something through our art.