Theater Talk: Sarah Norat-Phillips comes back to her roots at Ujima after Lorna C. Hill's passing
Losing the founder and Artistic Director of a theater company to cancer would be bad enough, but in the time of COVID-19, there has been particular pressure on the Ujima Theatre Company, Incorporatedto stay in the game. Although founding member Sarah Norat-Phillips has been out of state for a few decades working in media management, she had been in constant contact with Ms. Hill and agreed to stepped in as Interim Artistic Director for Ujima, which has a number of virtual projects, including BIOP-see.
Sarah trained directly under Lorna Hill and actively worked as an actress, singer, director and producer with the company during its first 18 years. A multiple ARTIE Award nominee and winner, she performed in dozens of Ujima shows including the original productions of AND BID HIM SING, YALLA BITCH, OPPORTUNITY PLEASE KNOCK, and EL HAJJ MALIK. Sarah has also directed such Ujima productions as TWO TRAINS RUNNING by August Wilson, THE ISLAND by Athol Fugard, and A SOLDIER'S PLAY by Charles Fuller.
The next production to be offered is a ticketed show, BIOP-SEE by Tatiana featuring Hilda Ramos which sounds as if it will have a few parallels with the life of Lorna C. Hill. Norat-Phillips is particularly proud of her current directing job for BIOP-see by tatiana de la tierra, which, according to the Ujima website, "is an autobiographical piece depicting one woman’s solo journey through her diagnosis of lupus. As an outspoken latina activist and lesbian writer, she holds back no truth when sifting through the layers of her being, while her life flashes before her eyes. Her emotions and thoughts unravel in allegorical poems, memories and multiple girl talks with herself. Although it is a truth that is hard to face, BIOP-see shares the struggle and acceptance of a woman grasping at life." Featuring Hilda Ramos, the play can be Livestreamed Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, March 26, 27, 28 all shows at 8pm. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased here.
The company states: Ujima is a Swahili word meaning “collective work and responsibility” and it is from this tenet that we, Ujima Company, Inc., derive our purpose.
There is ample free (yes, free!) on demand content on their website.
Ujima Company & Pure Ink present: IN HER OWN WORDS, a two- part program which highlights the voices of women within Buffalo’s literary and spoken word community, connecting us through uncensored human experiences by means of poetry, music and theatre. Artists performing are Jillian Hanesworth, Annette Daniels-Taylor, Melinda Capeles, Danielle AJ, Eve Williams and Ujima Company Member, vonetta t. rhodes. This program is presented in partnership with Pure Ink Poetry.
There's also #ARTTHATHEALS, a 6-part series which is a continuation of Ujima’s revolving online showcase of invited artists reflecting their views, opinions and creations addressing today’s current events, issues and concerns. The series was created by Ujima company members during the pandemic as a way for artists to come together as a community to heal and to help others heal. #ArtThatHeals features artists from all disciplines, providing short balms of healing through song, dance, art installations, portraits, poetry, film and more.
And, this Saturday, March 20, there's HAIR ON FIRE, created and developed by Ujima’s own Curtis Lovell (daughter of Lorna C. Hill). Hair On Fire, weaves together the early narrative poems written by Lorna C. Hill. Performances will include many of the pieces staged originally in Ms. Hill’s popular autobiographical choreopoem, Yalla Bitch, but it will also feature many of her unpublished works. Each chapter of the 6-part monthly series will feature works fusing music, poetry and movement. Hair on Fire will entrap you with its storytelling of family, pain, sorrow, happiness and love, featuring a stellar cast of Buffalo actors and actresses.
And there are the DESKTOP SESSIONS, including one tonight, March 19, patterned after the highly successful NPR music’s Tiny Desk series, Ujima presents an intimate 4-part series of LIVE recorded multi-disciplinary concerts, featuring some of Buffalo’s best and brightest performing artists. Desktop Sessions will be curated by Ujima Company’s Music Director Karen Saxon and the company’s Dance Director Naila Ansari.