Houston Artist Commissioning Project LIVE: Part Two

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Media Contact:
Alexandra Drake
adrake@spahouston.org
713-632-8105

Society for the Performing Arts 

presents 

Houston Artist Commissioning Project LIVE: Part Two

The first live performances of SPA’s initiative for Houston artists features
World Premieres by Riyaaz Qawwali, Harrison Guy and Deborah D.E.E.P. Mouton

HOUSTON (October 19, 2021) – Society for the Performing Arts (SPA) presents Houston Artist Commissioning Project LIVE: Part Two, on November 12th – 13th at Jones Hall. These performances feature new works by local Houston artists, including South Asian music, Saint Kabir’s Poems in Qawwali by Riyaaz Qawwali, the latest from Harrison Guy entitled the Colored Carnegie, and a new one act play, The World’s Intermission by former poet laureate of Houston, Deborah D.E.E.P. Mouton. All works are World Premieres commissioned by SPA. 

Performances begin at 7:30 pm and will run for approximately 75 minutes. Tickets are $25 and seating is both general admission and socially distanced. Masks will be required. Tickets and more information at spahouston.org.

Launched in 2020, the Houston Artist Commissioning Project (HACP) promotes and sustains Houston’s working artists and artist communities by supporting the creation of new works across all performing arts disciplines. 

Meg Booth, SPA’s CEO, shares:

“The Houston art scene is as diverse as the city itself. We aim to highlight the talents of underrepresented local artists with the Houston Artist Commissioning Project, expanding their influence and the perspectives of our patrons,” said SPA CEO Meg Booth. “SPA’s Houston Artist Commissioning Project will continue annually, featuring talented Houstonians, celebrating our city and its creative possibilities.”

PERFORMANCE PROGRAM 

Kabir Das was a prolific poet of the Bhakti Tradition from South Asia, loved by the Hindu, Muslim and Sikh communities. This is true even today, evidenced by the fact that his poetry is sung in Hindu Bhajans, Sikh Shabads and Sufi songs. The new work, Saint Kabir’s Poems in Qawwali features Saint Kabir’s poetry performed in a newly composed qawwali by the ensemble Riyaaz Qawwali. The selected lyrics will tease out interfaith themes and the need for introspection for a worshiper. 

The last several years have divided the South Asian immigrants settled in the Greater Houston area. The tumultuous political rifts that have transpired in South Asia impacted the communities here. Taking inspiration from the region’s pluralistic heritage and the poetry of Saint Kabir, Riyaaz Qawwali looks to celebrate what each of these different communities has in common. The musicians’ hope with the commissioning is to activate art to facilitate healing. Perhaps the music and the subsequent community dialogue can act as a balm for the wounds of the past, allowing us to build afresh for a better tomorrow.

Harrison Guy is both creator and director of the Colored Carnegie, a dance theater work that showcases and explores Houston’s rich African American history. The story began in 1907, when Houston’s Public Library denied service to a group of African American teachers. In response, they decided to advocate for their own library. It opened in 1913 in Houston’s Fourth Ward and was one of the first public libraries for African Americans west of the Mississippi River. It was also one of twelve segregated public libraries originally funded by philanthropist Andrew Carnegie between 1908 and 1924.

Through her company A Deep Ink Production, Deborah D.E.E.P. Mouton explores the upheaval and challenges of the past 19 months with The World’s Intermission. As the world shutters under the weight of a global pandemic, members of one family find themselves considering the looming and lingering dangers they encounter in quarantine. While the greatest threat to some may be the virus, this 25-minute, one-act play which blends poetry, projections and storytelling elements, considers how fragile mental health conditions, rising racial tensions and the coming Texas Spring serve as the perfect storm for imagining a new beginning. 

(All works approximately 25 min in length.)

ABOUT THE ARTISTS

RIYAAZ QAWWALI is an ensemble of musicians with South Asian roots founded and led by “Sonny” in 2006. While Qawwali has its roots in Sufi Islam, its musicians are religiously diverse and multi-ethnic, including Hindus, Muslims, Agnostics and Atheists. The ensemble is reflective of the cultural diversity of South Asia and the diverse South Asian community that calls Houston home.   

Since 2016, the ensemble has lectured and performed at major universities and festivals, including Dartmouth University, Harvard University, University of Chicago, US Military Academy and several major museums. It was featured by Huffington Post, NPR, The New York Times and Miami Herald. Building interfaith harmony and bridging political divides through music have been a central part of Riyaaz Qawwali’s presentations since its inception. The group has released two traditional albums and several pieces on social media platforms. More information at riyaazqawwali.com. Follow on Facebook @riyaazq, or YouTube @riyaazqawwali. 

HARRISON GUY began his dance journey in the small town of La Marque, Texas. He has captivated audiences across the nation through his inspirational and unique works of passion, beauty and activism that are rooted in African American history and culture. Building on his love for social dance and Hip-Hop, he affirmed his purpose by studying dance at Prairie View A&M University. He continued his studies at the Houston Metropolitan Dance Center, Sam Houston State University, Deeply Rooted Productions in Chicago, Dallas Black Dance Theater and The Ailey School in New York. He was a founding member of both Exclamation Dance Company and Dorrel Martin’s Dance Fusion in Houston. In 2004, he debuted his dance company Urban Souls Dance Company at the city-wide dance festival, Dance Houston.  

Harrison has gained a reputation for creating soul-stirring works that shift the consciousness of the audience and inspire an emotional response. He facilitated a cultural exchange in Kigali, Rwanda, and was commissioned to create a work at Vanderbilt University in 2015 to honor one of America’s most prominent composers, John Harbison. In 2016, he launched Houston’s first African American Dance Festival. He founded “Black Arts Movement Houston,” a gathering space for local creatives. Harrison is the inaugural artist-in-residence at Rice University through the CERCL Department where he is presenting a project for Black students and community called “Black Bodies in White Spaces.” He has won numerous awards, which include Best Choreography for his work as Movement Director with Rec Room’s presentation of The Royale. He is the founder of the Charles Law Community Archive through the Black LGBTQ History and Heritage Project with the African American Library at The Gregory School.  

In addition, he has taught dance for 18 years at Codwell Elementary, Gregory-Lincoln Fine Arts Academy, Hamilton Middle School and Waltrip High School. Harrison has served the City of Houston as a member of the Mayor’s Quality of Life Committee and chair of the Mayor’s LGBTQ Advisory Board. He currently serves on the Mayor’s Policing Task Force. He is the Director of Arts and Culture for the 5th Ward Community Redevelopment Corporation. Follow on Facebook @Urban-Souls-Dance-Company-100120642831 and Instagram @urbansoulsdance

DEBORAH D.E.E.P. MOUTON is an internationally known writer, educator, activist, and Poet Laureate Emeritus of Houston. Formerly ranked the #2 Best Female Poet in the World, her work has appeared in Houston Noir by Akashic Press (2019), Black Girl Magic by Haymarket Books (2019), Fjords Journal, Crab Orchard Review, as well as on NPR, BBC, ABC, Apple News, Blavity, Upworthy and across the TedX circuit. She serves as a contributing writer to Texas Monthly and Glamour. Her most recent poetry collection, Newsworthy, won honorable mention for the Summerlee Book Prize. A German translation, under the title SayTheirNames, is set to be released in Fall 2021 by Elif Verlag. 

A fellow with The Writer’s Hotel and The Poetry Foundation’s Poetry Incubator, D.E.E.P.’s collaborations with The Houston Ballet, the Houston Rockets and the Houston Grand Opera have opened new doors for performance poetry. The opera, Marian’s Song, for which she wrote the libretto, debuted in 2020 to rave reviews. As a finalist for Texas State Poet Laureate, a Kennedy Center Citizen fellowship and the prestigious Breadloaf Retreat, her work has been highlighted and studied in Canada, England, New Zealand, and Germany. She performed and led a workshop at the 2018 Leipzig in Autumn literary festival, where she bridged the gap between the poetry slam and international publishing communities.  

D.E.E.P. holds two bachelor’s degrees from the University of Michigan- Ann Arbor, in English and African American Studies respectively. She also holds a MEd from the University of St. Thomas. She is a certified teacher with the State of Texas and has dedicated more than 15 years to the education of young minds, the expansion of literacy and the dismantling of literary racism. Follow on Facebook @LivingLifeDEEP and Instagram @livelifedeep

About Society for the Performing Arts

Society for the Performing Arts (SPA) is the largest non-profit arts presenter in the Southwest. Founded in 1966 as a resident organization of Jones Hall for the Performing Arts, SPA has sponsored more than 1,000 performances of the world’s most remarkable artists, featuring a huge range of arts disciplines.  In addition to performances at Houston’s Theater District venues, SPA provides learning experiences for all ages through master classes, lectures, and special performances, as builds strong supportive relationships with schools and community organizations throughout the region. More at spahouston.org/

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