Renaissance In The Belly of a Killer Whale – A Chat With The Creators

“Black is Beautiful” best describes Jaylene Clark and Chyann Sapp the creators of “Renaissance in the belly of a killer whale”. Beginning with a Facebook status, the off broadway play tackles racism, gentrification along as the decline of arts and culture in Harlem. Welcoming me into the mind of the two arts and culture activist, Jaylene Clark and Chyann Sapp spoke about the beginning of the show and plans to broaden the audience of the must see “Renaissance in the belly of a killer whale”.
Parle’: Where are you women from?
Jaylene: We’re both from Harlem, born and raised.
Parle’: When was the beginning of Arts and Culture for the both of you?
Jaylene: I always like creativity, from my first play in 5th grade. The name was “Show tune New York Story” another off broadway play.
Chyann: I began writing in urban word, the first story I wrote was in a journalism workshop. It was there when I began a passion for writing.
Parle’: The play “Renaissance in the belly of a killer whale” how did it get the name?
Jaylene: It began with a Facebook status, it was regarding my poetry. I would have never guessed that it would be about gentrification. It’s actually a metaphor about how Harlem is now looking more and more like the Belly of a killer whale.
Parle’: What exactly are some characteristics of the show?
Chyann: The show consist of music, a very lyrical dialogue a small portion of dancing. Just a show about gentrification told through the art of spoken word.
Parle’: Whats the inspiration behind the play?
Jaylene: The plays inspiration comes from everyday life in Harlem. It’s about culture changes, gentrification and Harlem.
Parle’: So far what’s the most important show performed?
Chyann: The most important show was performed March 16, 2011 the first show. It was actually a reading and to see so
Many supporters come out to watch us on stage was inspirational and actually was a Great opening to the show.
Parle’: With a show so deep is there any one person who was an influence?
Jaylene: Many Black activist and politicians. Such as Malcolm X and Martin Luther King. People who stood for change.
Parle’: If you could choose one song/poem to describe the show what would it be?
Jaylene: Poets that beat describe the show are Maya Angelou, Langston Hughes and Ralph Ellington. Also a song that describes the play is Duke Ellington’s “Take the a train”.
Parle’: What’s the future plans for the play?
Chyann: Hopefully to get in on broadway and get it in bigger venues. To expand the audience and begin to get more youth to view the show.
Parle’: How big is willpower while doing a such a controversial show?
Jaylene: Willpower is a big factor in the personality of all of us. We’re a strong family, I think our strength is what makes the show come together much easier. Willpower is installed in all of us.
Chyann: I feel the exactly same way just strength along with perseverance is what makes the performances meaningful.
Parle’: Was the ever a point during the writing/rehearsals where anyone wanted to quit?
Jaylene: Absolutely not, the dedication in all of our hearts would not allow us to be weak enough to quit. We’re strong and we’re mindful of the history that can be made in the future by Chyann and I.
Parle’: Pick one color to describe the play “Renaissance in the belly of a killer whale”?
Jaylene: The color that beat describes the show is “Black” a strong yet deep and emotional color. Along with white to describe the purity, our logo is Black, white and red so those three colors describe the play best.
Parle’: What do you want people to take away from “Renaissance in the Belly of a killer whale”?
Chyann: We want to take people on an emotional trip and get people to realize the art and culture behind our project. We want people to focus on art, also that gentrification happens no matter where.
Parle’: Any last words?
Jaylene: We want people to understand that art needs to be supported that it can stand. If supported financially along with people just coming out art can stand and reverse from it’s decline in the inner city.  It’s encouraging to see people use their voice and that our Harlem woman can do anything.
Chyann: We want support and we want people to be apart of our movement to push arts and culture back in the forefront. We’re educated and we want to educate others with “Renaissance in the belly of a killer whale”.
Parle’: Thank you ladies for your time and the best of luck in the future.
Jaylene: Thank you.
Chyann: Thank You.
Parle’: Check the creators of “Renaissance in the belly of a killer whale” on the following websites:
YouTube.com/user/KWProject
HarlemKWproject.com
Facebook.com/KWProject
Twitter.com/KWProject

“Black is Beautiful” best describes Harlemites Jaylene Clark and Chyann Sapp, one-half of the creative team behind Renaissance In The Belly of a Killer Whale. Beginning with a Facebook status, the off-Broadway play tackles racism and gentrification, along with the desire to embrace a new Harlem Renaissance in which Harlem arts and culture is celebrated, cultivated, and encouraged. Welcoming me into their minds, Jaylene Clark and Chyann Sapp spoke about the beginning of the show and plans to broaden the audience of the must see Renaissance In The Belly of a Killer Whale.

Parlé Magazine:  When was the beginning of Arts & Culture for the both of you?
Jaylene: I’ve always been a lover of creativity. My earliest recollection of writing poetry was in the fifth grade. It was also in the fifth grade that I made my acting debut in the Off-Broadway play, ShowTunes: New York City Stories, with the Standing Ovation Theatre Company.
Chyann: I began writing in Urban Word. The first story I wrote was in a journalism workshop. It was there when I developed a passion for writing.

Parlé:  The play Renaissance in the Belly of a Killer Whale, how did it get the name?
Jaylene: It began with a Facebook status, in which I wanted to talk about jumping back into the poetry world. I would have never guessed that it would be about gentrification; the words just started flowing. I wound up creating a metaphor in which I stated that Harlem was looking like the belly of a killer whale due to gentrification. When brainstorming ideas for the title of the piece we wanted to make sure this metaphor was included. Janelle contributed the title, “Renaissance in the Belly of a Killer Whale,” because it highlighted not only the metaphor, but the fact that we want to embrace this new Harlem Renaissance.

Parlé:  What exactly are some characteristics of the show?
Chyann: The show consists of music, a very lyrical dialogue, a small portion of dancing. It is a show about gentrification told through the art of spoken word.

Parlé:  What inspired you to take the play from that Facebook status to the stage?
Jaylene: Our producer, Alfred Preisser, saw the Facebook status and asked me if I could create a 50-60 minute play with 2 or 3 other woman that addressed the issue of gentrification in Harlem based off of the killer whale metaphor. He wanted it to combine spoken word poetry and theatre. I jumped at the opportunity because I have always had a great love and pride for the place where I have lived my entire life. I recruited Hollis, Janelle, and Chyann, and from there we went on to create this show!

Parlé:  When was the show’s first performance?
Chyann:  The show’s first performance took place on March 16, 2011, at the historic Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem.  It was a play reading, which we performed in front of an at capacity crowd. Seeing so many supporters was really inspirational. It was a great beginning for the show.

Parlé:  With a show so deep is there any people who were an influence?
Jaylene: Those fellow Black people who have come before us in the fields of social change, as well as in theatre, were definitely an inspiration. They let us know that creating something like this was possible. They paved the way.

Parlé:  What’s the future plans for the play?
Jaylene: We want to definitely bring the play to Harlem because we know that the Harlem audience will connect to it the most. We are also having a college tour for the 2011-12 school year. We plan to feature this show in New York City and beyond.

Parlé: How big is will power while doing such a controversial show?
Jaylene: Will power is a big factor in the personality of all of us. We are determined to share this show with whoever is willing to listen and we are prepared to do the work that will enable us to be a success. We are four strong willed women!
Chyann: I feel the same way. Strength, along with perseverance, is what brings the show together.

Parlé: Was there ever a point during the writing/rehearsals where anyone wanted to quit?
Jaylene: Absolutely not. The dedication in all of our hearts would not allow us to be weak enough to quit. We’re strong and we’re mindful of the history that can be made in the future of this production.

Parlé:  Pick one color to describe the play.
Jaylene: The color that best describes the show is “Black,” a strong yet deep and emotional color. The belly of the killer whale is Black and White so those colors are included in our logo, along with red which is a powerful, eye popping color.

Parlé:  What do you want people to take away from “Renaissance in the Belly of a Killer Whale”?
Jaylene: Although gentrification is inevitable in Harlem, and in many cities around the world, we want people to know that we can help to preserve the culture of the neighborhood by revitalizing the arts and never forgetting the history of that particular neighborhood.

Parlé:  Thank you ladies for your time and the best of luck in the future.
Jaylene: Thank you.
Chyann: Thank You.

 


Check the creators of Renaissance In The Belly of a Killer Whale on the following websites:

www.HarlemKWProject.com

YouTube.com/KWProjectHarlemKWproject

Facebook.com/HarlemKWProject

Twitter.com/HarlemKWProject

 

Upcoming shows:

Wednesday, June 1, 7PM

Monday, June 6, 7PM (Benefit Performance)

 

Times Square Arts Center

300 West 43rd Street

New York, NY

 

Tickets are $20. You can purchase tickets here:

http://www.smarttix.com/show.aspx?EID&showCode=REN3&BundleCode&GUID=9e1394ff-12df-4f31-8f13-7d9df3b81a33

 

Synopsis of show:

In the last twenty years Harlem has undergone drastic cultural, political, and social changes. Renaissance in the Belly of a Killer Whale tells the story of three young Harlemite women who journey through Harlem’s streets, history, landmarks, renaissance, and evolving culture. Through a montage of truthful dialogue, spoken word poetry, song, and Harlem memories, these characters tell picturesque stories that explore the multifaceted issue of gentrification. These young women bring to life a variety of perspectives on the issue while highlighting the one that rings true to them. They wish to establish a new Harlem Renaissance that will embrace the inevitable changes to the neighborhood while revitalizing the rich culture of years past. 

 

 

The Cast:

Directed by: Jaylene Clark

Written by: Jaylene Clark, Hollis Heath, Janelle Heatley, and Chyann Sapp

Starring: Jaylene Clark, Hollis Heath, and Janelle Heatley

Produced by: Alfred Preisser Productions, Inc.

 

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