Program Note: Heart of Brick
About this Piece
Heart of Brick
A Joyce Theater Production
Created by serpentwithfeet
HEART OF BRICK tells the story of a nightclub from an intimate and tender Black gay perspective. Surreal and film aesthetical elements are used to blur the lines between fiction and reality: spoken word, poisoned plants and mysterious riddles from a familiar elder weave together a magical telling of serpentwithfeet's new album GRIP. The piece reverently nods to Isaac Julien's 1989 film Looking for Langston, which explores the life of the poet Langston Hughes and Black queer nightlife during the Harlem Renaissance. Heart of Brick also takes inspiration from a New York City bar called Langstons, which was long considered to be the oldest(last?) Black Gay Club, where portraits of Hughes hung. For serpentwithfeet, Langstons “was a huge part of my New York experience when I lived there and I often say this venue raised me a 2nd time. The dance floor has been a medium for Black queer people to decompress and build community." This community is also evident on stage. The group of performers represent the creators and patrons of the club, through their conversational dynamics and movements. A romantic relationship that evolves between serpent and club owner Brick touchingly demonstrates tenderness and closeness between two men, as well as the tensions that emerge when an outsider enters the community.
We first meet serpentwithfeet, who is new to the city and hopelessly romantic. At the same time, a group of friends are excitedly preparing for a wild night out. They all come together at the legendary Back Yard - a Black gay club owned by Brick and his ex-lover Redwood. When Serpent meets Brick sparks fly.
A few days later, Brick and Redwood are congratulating themselves on their successful party when Darius, an elderly man, wanders by with a mysterious warning. Later on, Serpent and Brick’s relationship grows deeper, but Brick fears intimacy. He leaves to go back to the bar, where Darius reveals that someone has poisoned the plants on the patio.
Through gossip and fear imbued in the Plants, Brick has been poisoned and is rushed to the hospital. Serpent visits Brick. Darius reappears offering another riddle to save Brick's life with a mystical flower. With this new knowledge, Serpent rushes to the club, to ask for help to save Brick – nobody wants to help. Serpent returns to Brick whose condition is getting worse. Brick has a fever dream, where angels confront him with his issues of intimacy. Serpent sets off to find the mystical flower. The others find and help him. Together, they find what they’re looking for.
About the Artists/Program Notes
Josiah Wise savors romantic moments under his alias serpentwithfeet. The 35-year-old Los Angeles-based artist with a background in R&B and classical music expresses desire and pleasure in songs so beguilingly gentle that he has become one of the most exciting alternative R&B voices. Now he is developing his first stage work with award-winning visual artist Wu Tsang, who expresses queer identity in films and is resident director at Schauspielhaus Zurich. Completing the team is Raja Feather Kelly, one of New York’s most luminous choreographers, with both Pulitzer Prize-winning Broadway works and his own experimental dance works; as well as Solange and Bob Wilson designer Carlos Soto, star stylist Julio Delgado, and poet Donte Collins. Together with seven dancers, the team tells the story of a Black gay nightclub. This is where the utopian potential of a safe space and a great love story between the club security guard Brick and serpentwithfeet unfold. The latter is on stage himself – with songs from his new album “Grip”.
Music from the album GRIP:
Black Air Force
1 to 10
Music & Concept:
Choreographer + Dramaturg:
Raja Feather Kelly
Julio Cesar Delgado w/ support from Telfar
Donte Collins & serpentwithfeet in collaboration with Performers
Shaquelle Charles, Dylan M. Contreras, Justin Daniels, Matthew Deloch, Chrystion Dudley, Brandon Gray, Nelson “Nellie” Enrique Mejia Jr.
Production Manager/Stage Manager:
Ross LeClair, Joyce Theater Productions
Barbara Frum, outer/most
Associate Producer/Company Manager:
Bridget Caston, Joyce Theater Productions
Kazz Laidlaw, EQT
Co-Commissioned by: The Joyce Theater Foundation, Kampnagel International Summer Festival,
The LA Phil - with generous support from Linda and David Shaheen, Seattle Theatre Group, Hancher Auditorium at the University of Iowa
Cast of Characters
Dylan M. Contreras, Brick
Chrystion Dudley, Redwood
Justin Daniels, Amir/Darius
Brandon Gray, Jamar
Nelson “Nellie” Enrique Mejia Jr., Saige
Shaquelle Charles, Dorian
Matthew Deloch, Quan