IN SEARCH OF GIANTS
Ali is currently collaborating with colleague/mentor, Dr. Von H. Washington (retired Drama Professor from the University of Western Michigan and renowned playwright, actor and director) on a theatre project about their exploration of Black and White Abolitionists who worked on the Underground Railroad, including the great Henry Bibb, and her own ancestors, Pamela and Dr. Nathan Thomas. The world premier of this work was held on November 2015 at the Ladies’ Library in the town of Schoolcraft, Michigan, where the house belonging to Ali’s ancestors is now a National Historic Site and Museum.
Performances and showcases in Michigan and Ontario, Canada. The performance dates are:
Thursday, January 28th, 2016 at 7:30pm: Theatrical reading at the Arthur Miller Theatre on University of Michigan’s North Campus, in Ann Arbor, MI. Admission Free
Friday, February 12th, 2016 at 7pm and Saturday, February 13th, 2016 at 4pm: Theatrical reading at Washington Gardner High School in Albion, MI
Sunday, February 21st, 2016 at 3pm & 6pm: Theatrical reading at the Epic Theatre in Kalamazoo, MI
Friday, April 15th and Saturday, April 16th, 2016 at 8pm: Showcase at the Annex Theatre in Toronto, ON.
Saturday, May 27th, 2017 at 8pm: Theatrical reading at Mackenzie Hall Cultural Centre in Windsor, ON.
General Media Release
For information and bookings:
in the US, please contact:
Washington Productions, Inc.
P.O. Box 3253, Kalamazoo, MI 49003-3253
Attn: Von H. Washington, Ph.D.
in Canada, please contact:
Ali Garrison by clicking here
In Search of Giants
(Drama, Song and the Spoken Word)
written and directed by Dr. Von H. Washington, Sr.
Saturday, May 27th, 2017 – 8pm, Mackenzie Hall Cultural Centre, 3277 Sandwich St., Windsor, Ontario. (519) 255-7600
Toronto artist, producer and mezzo-soprano, Ali Garrison, has teamed up with her American colleague, Dr. Von H. Washington, Sr., a renowned theatre professional for forty years, to bring their well-received theatre presentation, In Search of Giants to Windsor, Ontario.
This production, about a personal journey leading to the discovery of three significant leaders on the Underground Railroad, has been playing to full houses and standing ovations since it began touring Michigan in November 2015. There have been numerous transnational performances since, along Michigan and Ontario Underground Railroad routes, including Schoolcraft, Kalamazoo, Albion, Ypsilanti, Ann Arbor and Toronto. Next on its Freedom-Seeking Tour, In Search of Giants comes to Old Sandwich Town (now part of Windsor), Ontario, at the old courthouse, MacKenzie Hall Cultural Centre on May 27th, 2017. This important village along the Detroit River was where so many refugees from slavery settled, including one of our most significant Giants, the great Abolitionist, Henry Bibb.
In Search of Giants is a staged dramatic reading in the traditional style of the Afrikan Griot, but uses more than one storyteller. This presentation features an international cast of modern-day American and Canadian storytellers. Among them are Washington and Garrison, with Von Washington, Jr., Bianca Washington, Duff MacDonald. Alicia Payne, Tim Smith and accomplished professional baritone Romeo Phillips. Musicians, Kwanza Msingwana and Darryl Huggins will open the evening.
Garrison, who in this production sings and plays both herself and her own great, great, great grandmother, shares these thoughts: “In Search of Giants is a powerful and moving piece about how when we explore the past, we understand ourselves better, which inspires a more informed future. I spent last year researching with Dr. Washington, digging deep into ancestral roots. There, we found a wellspring of Abolitionist history with narratives of my three greats grandparents, Dr. Nathan Thomas and Freedom Seeker Henry Bibb. To be able to bring these explorations to Old Sandwich Town, where so much of this transnational history continued to play out, is thrilling.”
In an informational release Washington writes, “As an African American, I learned a long time ago that I had to find my own history because those who enslaved my ancestors were set on keeping the descendants of the enslaved ignorant of their past. However I also learned that, if I didn’t know, neither did they. I have made it my duty to help us all learn about the true Giants of our African, American, and Canadian past.”
In a perpetual search for information about his ancestral past, a local college professor makes several unannounced visits to the Underground Railroad Museum in Schoolcraft, Michigan. His first visit, revealing and mysterious, brings him closer to understanding the struggles of the conductor of the house, Dr. Nathan Thomas, a Quaker by birthright. In an unrelated meeting, the Professor comes into contact with a descendant of the Thomas family and learns more about Dr. Thomas’ wife, Pamela, and the Freedom Seeker and fellow Abolitionist, Henry Bibb, who visited the Thomas house in 1844 and went on to settle in Canada. Doc also learns about a conjuring technique and a narrative story that was written by Bibb himself before his death in 1854. During a second visit to the museum, the professor goes to the room where hundreds of enslaved ancestors were hidden while waiting to go on to freedom; and there, to his surprise, he successfully conjures the spirits of Henry Bibb and others who join in to aid him in telling their stories of running toward freedom on the Underground Railroad.
The Why the Sea is Salty Project
“Do you know where you begin? In the sky? In the sea?”
“What’s the difference, my dear?”
The Why the Sea is Salty Project is a re-voicing and popularization of an ancient Scandinavian myth about twin giantesses (!!) through interdisciplinary collaborations.
This multi-phased project is a led collaboration of four culturally diverse professional artists working within their communities to create a set of interdisciplinary works, re-inventing and popularizing this ancient Scandinavian myth through theatre, literature, improvisation, graphics, singing/percussion, soundscapes, puppetry, projections and visual art.
“Why the Sea is Salty” is an in-depth exploration of a marvelous, half-forgotten Scandinavian myth about Menja and Fenja, twin Giantesses who are enslaved to turn the magic millwheel, Grotti.
By awakening and bringing to light new perspectives on this story we seek to help our communities to access the treasure troves of possibilities that are buried just beneath the surface of our collective consciousness.
This myth is alive, a process of discovery for all participants. We are female artists unconfined by traditional specializations in art, though we are highly trained and experienced in our media. Through intuitive, educative, empowering, and co-operative methods we seek creative, professional, personal and inter-personal transformation.
- facilitating with gifted youth apprentices to create and publish a comic book series, called “The Further Adventures of Menja and Fenja” based on this myth.
- recording a set of choral improvisations with the professional vocal ensemble, the Nathaniel Dett Chorale. These recordings will be used as live soundtracks for a set of animated paintings shown during the workshop presentation.
- gifted youth apprentices recruited to learn alongside the artists as we ourselves learn about and develop these works.
- a call to artists of all disciplines to create works in response to this myth.
- working with performers, and singers to uncover insights into the myriad emotions and psyches of the characters within the myth.
- creating and publishing a picture book of this telling of the myth.
- an online collaborative composition.
- Viking Fair fundraiser featuring Norse traditions and artwork created in response to this myth
Artists currently involved in the collaboration are:
Leslie Ashton, puppeteer, stage designer
Ali Garrison, project leader, writer, music creator, performer, producer.
Anne-Marie Hood, soundscape artist, music creator, performer (“The Weather”)
Mosa Neshamá McNeilly, visual artist, set painter, projectionist.
Other contributers have included:
Barbara Croall, Isabelle Beaudoin, Marco Cinello, Jo Doughty, Mark Hazen, John Scully-Ashton, Moya Garrison-Msingwana, Myrna Scully-Ashton, Peter Mundinger, Chris Jääskeläinen, Neema Bickersteth, Andrew Gunpath, the Nathaniel Dett Chorale, Michelle-Lynn Goodfellow, Katy Harmer, Mary Alton, Manon Beaudoin, Colin Heath, Ariel Fielding, Eileen Eng, and Vinnie Sestito.
This project was made possible by generous support from the following:
Ontario Arts Council
The Canada Council for the Arts
American Apparel Community Scholarship
Stay tuned for Ali’s solo debut album, MOSAIC coming soon for purchase through this website.
THE MOSAIC DREAM
My family and a smattering of my friends are gathered with me at my Mother’s grand “summer estate” which hangs right over the St. Lawrence Riverwhere it is broadest. We are congregated in “the conservatory”- the music salon. It is spacious and high-ceilinged with French latticed doors and windows opening onto balconies over-looking the river. It is a summer evening. Candles light the room, illuminating richly woven tapestries and Persian rugs on the walls and floor. There are semi–precious stones inlaid in elaborate mosaics on the table-tops and mantle and floors; jade, lapis lazuli, hermatite, amber, obsidian, turquoise, malachite, alexandrite and rose quartz. The designs are exquisite – each stone is unique, different and intriguing for its imperfections. I feel myself move in to study them up close…the colours soak into me, imbuing me, nourishing me. I completely understand that each piece contributes to a whole design and that this technicolour moment, this dream vision, is making a deep impression on my developing philosophy and aesthetic.
Please join me in exploring this dream mosaic of songs, each rare and beautiful in their diversity and stories. It is like a puzzle to figure out how each eclectic set of pieces interlocks with those around it. And at the end, perhaps together, both performer and listener will be able to stand before a complete picture, a common image.
CD will be available for online purchase soon. To receive notices about this date and more, please sign up for Ali’s Giddy Bohemian Newsletter here.
The Eastern Gate
Ali is currently creating a small film of The Eastern Gate (Nancy Bennett and Ali Garrison co-improvising composers). She is collaborating with the East Machais-based painter, Anne Leaver.