The Core Ensemble’s touring season ended this week with two performances in St. Louis, MO. In addition to touring our repertoire shows (Los Valientes, Tres Vidas, Of Ebony Embers, and Ain’t I a Woman!), we premiered a new music theatre piece, “Harvest of Voices”, a collaboration with the Farmworker Coordinating Council of the Palm Beaches. Did the season have its challenges? Yes, definitely – in the form of appalling weather around the U.S. that resulted in costly venue cancellations. Is global warming affecting our business? Absolutely! But Mother Nature notwithstanding, it was a GREAT year. Over the past months, what stands out more than anything are the wonderful Core Ensemble artists. It was our best season ever for amazing collegiality and fruitful artistic collaboration! Applause! Applause!
It’s Shrove Tuesday – or Mardi Gras! Preparing for the season of Lent, this is the day when Christians scour their kitchens for eggs, fat, milk, and butter, using up all the yummy ingredients that might be turned into something delicious and non-penitential. Pancakes, for instance! Thinking about Mardi Gras puts me in mind of Zora Neale Hurston’s time in New Orleans and the amazing anthropological research she did there. In Zora’s biography, Robert E. Hemenway describes “the unique context of Zora Neale Hurston's fieldwork… the pressures were both racial and sexual. She was a pioneering role model as a woman who rejected sexual roles, traveling with only a handgun, a two-dollar dress, a suitcase full of courage through some of the roughest and remotest parts of the rural south”. Imagine being a single, black, educated woman in the late 1920’s exploring Vodou (or “Hoodoo”) in the Deep South! Zora published two works on New Orleans Vodou: Mules and Men and Hoodoo in America. Zora’s field work was significant to African American religious history; she explored the deep knowledge of the ancestors, transformative healing rituals and the ancient wisdom of her people.
As for me, I will make a King Cake (traditional today in New Orleans) and eat Pancakes.
LAISSEZ LES BON TEMPS ROULER!
The Core Ensemble continues its busy Black History Month touring with TWO shows on the road simultaneously: “Of Ebony Embers-Vignettes of the Harlem Renaissance” and a new duo version of “Ain’t I a Woman!” for actress and piano. This new version of a perennial favorite is perfect for small venues. Actress Christy Hall loves performing this very intimate show and audiences are LOVING her!
I can’t help bragging by sharing what people are saying about them:
It was such a pleasure having Christy and Byon perform…the duo worked really well for our intimate theatre…Christy was able to connect very directly – it was a wonderful evening! – Jeri Suarez, Associate Dean for Cultural and Community Engagement, Hollins University, VA
It was something you don’t see every day…this was fantastic, with the music, interludes and character changes! – Alva Cellini, Director of Women’s Studies, St. Bonaventure University, NY.
I thought the two performers were fabulous! Lisa Wilson, Office of Inclusive Excellence, Mary Baldwin College, VA
BRAVO!!! – to two amazing artists!
This week the Core Ensemble will launch its national tour of “Of Ebony Embers-Vignettes of the Harlem Renaissance” – a month-long touring celebration of a great period in our nation’s cultural history. Our fabulous actor Jamyl Dobson is back again to portray the iconic African Americans who left a legacy of amazing art for all Americans to cherish.
Our handsome trio will perform works by Ellington, Strayhorn, Mingus, Monk and many others – a brilliant soundscape illuminating the emotional life of the show.
I will celebrate Black History Month in my own way – by consuming an entire box of the Core Ensemble’s signature chocolate collection, “Harlem Sweeties”, inspired by the Langston Hughes poem. You can get them for your own sweetie – (for Valentine's Day?) at the Core Store:
Brown sugar lassie,
Sweet enough to eat.
Coffee and cream,
Out of a dream.
Or cocoa brown,
Pride of the town.
To plum-tinted black,
In Harlem's no lack.
We love our beautiful new “Ain't I a Woman!” actress Christy Hall!
Christy and the Ensemble are re-creating those great African American ladies with insight, dignity and grace:
Fannie Lou Hamer, Clemetine Hunter, Sojourner Truth, Zora Neale Hurston
Following our local programming in Florida, we’ll bring the show to venues in New York, Virginia, Oklahoma, New Jersey, North Carolina, Georgia, Nevada, Minnesota, Indiana, California, Colorado, Oregon and North Dakota (brrr….).
The artists are looking forward to their time on the road – over the years there have been some incredible artistic and culinary adventures. In 2013, our travels took us to Pochahontas, Arkansas, home of the Eddie Mae Herron Center, www.herroncenter.org, a museum and cultural center celebrating 200 years of African American History in Randolph County, AR. The ensemble was treated to a fabulous lunch including a remarkable Chicken Pot Pie. Wanda Hogue was gracious enough to share the recipe with Percussionist Michael Parola. Here’s a suggestion for your MLK Jr. Holiday dinner:
Wanda Hogue's Chicken Pot Pie
1/3 cup butter
¼ cup chopped onion
½ cup chopped celery
¼ cup flour
½ tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
½ tsp. celery salt
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup light cream
3 cups diced cooked chicken
1 large can drained mixed vegetables
3 cups flour
1 ½ tsp salt
3 tsp vinegar
1 1/8 cup Crisco
¾ cup milk
Directions: In a medium saucepan melt butter over low heat. Add onions and celery and cook a few minutes. Blend in ¼ cup flour, salt, 1/8 tsp pepper, and celery salt. Add chicken stock and stir slowly over low heat until thickened. Remove from heat. Add chicken and vegetables. Mix crust: flour, salt, shortening, then add milk and vinegar. Put half into a 13 x 9 pan, add chicken mixture, top with remaining pastry. Bake at 425 degrees for 30 minutes.
Just imagine: CREAM and BUTTER! No wonder it's good!
A great weekend for the Core Ensemble! Performances of “Harvest of Voices: Cuentos de los Campos” at two Florida venues: the Duncan Theatre in Lake Worth and the Dolly Hand Center in Belle Glade. This new music theatre work gave audiences an intimate picture of a misunderstood and underappreciated population: the agricultural workers who put food on our tables every day. Actor Kevin Melendez portrayed a kaleidoscope of personalities and stories. They were heartbreaking, inspiring, funny and thought-provoking. The trio was in great form, providing a vibrant soundscape of Latin American music that illuminated the emotional life of the characters..
Now, every time I sit down to consume our wonderful Florida produce, I will think of the “Harvest of Voices” stories, and of all the people who make this bounty appear on my table.
Sausage and Rice Stuffed Peppers
From Martha Stewart
3 ½ t. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for baking sheet
1/ lb. sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
1 zucchini, diced small
1 medium onion, diced small
1 garlic clove, minced
Coarse salt and ground pepper
½ os. Grated parmesan cheese
4 cups cooked long-grain rice
½ cup fresh breadcrumbs
4 large red bell peppers, halved lengthwise, seeds and ribs removed
- Heat oven to 400 degrees. In large skillet, heat 1 t. oil over medium-high. Add sausage and cook, breaking up meat with a wooden spoon until browned, 5 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer sausage to a medium bowl. Add 1 t. oil to skillet along with zucchini, onion, and garlic. Season with salt and pepper and cook until vegetables are tender.
- Add zucchini mixture to bowl with sausage, along with Parmesan, rice, and 1 t. oil; stir to combine and season with salt and pepper. Brush a rimmed baking sheet with oil and arrange bell peppers, cut side up, on sheet. Divide rice mixture among peppers and top with breadcrumbs. Bake until breadcrumbs are browned and peppers are tender, about 30 minutes. Serve warm.
It’s hard NOT to notice the increasing diversity of the American Beauty. She’s everywhere – from the runways of high fashion to the Miss America Pageant to the Girl Next Door. Recently my friend Joan Beckford, a talented makeup artist, did a demonstration in my home. She did makeovers on two women, one with white porcelain-ivory skin, the other a beautiful mixed-race woman with a café au lait complexion. Both looked gorgeous when she finished!
As you can see, Joan is a beauty. She is also a genius at making other women look beautiful. Joan uses the fabulous Motives Cosmetics line which specializes in a range of colors for EVERY skin tone. Women of ALL colors can find Joan’s tricks of the trade on the Core Store – a new retail venture which will help fund the Core Ensemble’s many educational and outreach performances. Our new motto: Shopping Supports Culture!. Here’s the Motives Cosmetics section of our store:
Beauty comes in all colors – another reason to celebrate diversity!