Dancer/director Akela Jaffi—who’s known for performing around town with artists such as Chanti Darling—is the organizer for a new collective committed to onstage storytelling, and aims to center the diverse perspectives and experiences of Black people. The two-act play Black Sun features a slew of local creatives among its cast, including stylist/designer Mia Charnelle, poet Rashida Young, and well-known Portland hip-hop artists Mikey Fountaine, Ripley Snell, and Libretto.
“There will be a musical component, of course. I don’t know if we could do the project without music,” says Jaffi. “We have a few artists who are dedicated solely to creating a live and prerecorded score for the show.”
Black Sun will be formatted like “a classic piece of theater,” with an intermission between the two halves and a cohesive storyline. As director, Jaffi developed the loose ideas for each scene, but in order to keep the authenticity of the voices, much of the dialogue in Black Sun was written by the people who will deliver it onstage. And that aligns pretty tightly with the hints given in the promotional materials: “Black Sun is a telling of our worth and our beauty. It is a collection of voices that make one story to propel us into the future.”
While Jaffi didn’t want to disclose too much about the play’s narrative before people have a chance to see it, she did give me this tidbit. “The story is one of breaking,” she said. “Breaking us of old images and stories of Blackness. Breaking us out of our hopelessness by creating something new and beautiful. This country has been flooded with negative imagery of black folks and this show is intent on doing the opposite.”
She and the Black Sun collective are looking to expand their online presence and collaborate with allies. While there is currently only one performance date set (March 9), Jaffi says her plan is to get the show picked up by a theater where she can give it a temporary home, making Black Sun a living, breathing project. She hopes to involve artists who weren’t able to participate this time around and admit theatergoers of all ages. “The most important thing to me is that Black Sun be seen by Black sons and daughters,” says Jaffi. “This is a show created by us for the watering and growing of our new and different story.”