Funk rock pioneer Nona Hendryx continues her year at Joe’s Pub as the inaugural recipient of The Vanguard Residency and Award. In collaboration with renowned American artist Carrie Mae Weems, award-winning theater director Niegel Smith and acclaimed choreographer Francesca Harper, Hendryx created Refrigerated Dreams, an immersive multimedia installation and concert transforming Joe’s Pub into the dinner party of the season. Inspired by Weems’s seminal The Kitchen Table Series, the work-in-progress is directed by Smith and features choreography and performances by Harper, Josh Johnson and The Francesca Harper Project, with original music by Hendryx.
From the first message announcing Refrigerated Dreams, the audience enters a world of binaries: man or woman, black or white, stay or go. In that first email, a man invites you to a dinner party, for which he has secured Nona Hendryx and her performance art band Anon as the entertainment. But lurking behind him are the images from The Kitchen Table Series. In a way, they are asking, what's going on in the kitchen; what’s the backstory? Missing from the dinner table is ‘The Man,’ performed by Josh Johnson and ‘The Woman,’ performed by Harper. Where is she? Is she coming? Will she break out of the heteronormative?
Music and Created by: Nona Hendryx
Visuals, Text/Co-Creator: Carrie Mae Weems (Images by Carrie Mae Weems with Jo Ann Callis)
Choreographer/Co-Creator: Francesca Harper
Directed by/Co-Creator Niegel Smith
Associate Choreographer: Josh Johnson
Nona Hendryx (Creator, Music and Performer), revolutionary art-rock, new-wave goddess, is a celebrated vocalist, record producer, songwriter, musician and author, Ambassador of Artistry in Music for Berkelee College of Music. Longtime Hendryx fans know her as one of the founding members of the ‘girl group’, Patti LaBelle & the Bluebelles. In 1970, Patti, Sarah Dash and Nona morphed into the groundbreaking group Labelle, delivering a No.1 worldwide hit with ‘Lady Marmalade’ (Voulez Vous Coucher Avec Moi C’est Soir?). Tackling social issues, love and politics, Hendryx’s legendary career spans six decades of sound, technology and style innovation.
Carrie Mae Weems (Co-creator, Visuals and Text). Through image and text, film and across a multitude of disciplines, Carrie Mae Weems has created a complex body of work that centers on her overarching commitment to helping us better understand our present moment by examining our collective past. She investigates family relationships, cultural identity, sexism, class, political systems, and the consequences of power. Weems has received a multitude of awards, grants, and fellowships including the MacArthur “Genius” grant; US Department of State’s Medals of Arts; Joseph H. Hazen Rome Prize Fellowship from the American Academy in Rome; the National Endowment of the Arts; and the Louis Comfort Tiffany Award, among many others.
Francesca Harper (Co-creator, Choreographer and Performer) is an internationally acclaimed multi-faceted artist. She joined and performed soloist roles with The Dance Theater of Harlem and later as a Principal Dancer in William Forsythe’s Ballet Frankfurt. Her dance career led her through the fashion and music world and back to New York, where she forayed into Broadway. She has choreographed for companies like Alvin Ailey America Dance Theater, Dance Theater of Harlem, Hubbard Street II and her own company The Francesca Harper Project in addition to teaching at The Juilliard School. Harper also works within film, television and theater, often melding those forms with her dance works.
Niegel Smith (Co-creator and Director) is a Bessie Award-winning theater director and performance artist. He is the Artistic Director of NYC’s Obie Award-winning theater, The Flea and board member of A.R.T./New York. Smith also serves as the ringleader of Willing Participant, an artistic activist organization that whips up urgent poetic responses to crazy stuff that happens.
Josh Johnson (Associate Choreographer and Performer) trained with Eartha Robinson and Otis Sallid, attended Hollywood High School under the direction of Keny Long, and was a student at the Marat Daukayev School of Ballet in Los Angeles while studying with Karen McDonald. He has danced with Ailey II, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, and The Francesca Harper Project. Johnson was a member of The Forsythe Company under the direction of William Forsythe. He is currently a freelance artist, choreographer and creator.
Refrigerated Dreams is presented as part of both the Joe's Pub New York Voices program and the Vanguard Award and Residency.