Leah reviews 'Black Matter' 

Candles flickered around the event space off the main dining room at Nox in Village Gate on Wednesday evening, adding to the ambiance of the large, Victorian-esque room. A server flitted around delivering drinks tableside, and a makeshift stage area set apart from tables and chairs was lit with red and blue lights, casting purple rays across the faces of three young black dancers who began the show with a moving interpretive dance set to music thick with bass drumming.

“Black Matter" is a series of eight short vignettes that capture “black life, black love, and black taboos.” Its topics range from childhood to natural hair, violence, the black church, and molestation. The actors, a small company of six, rotate through multiple roles with surprising agility and talent, given their ages (the youngest members appear to be in middle school and high school, while the other half are in their early twenties). There’s dance, acting, spoken word and even an a capella song at the end of the experience.

“Black Matter” was born out of Artistic Director Aubrey Williams’s masters thesis at Georgia State University. Her Atlanta-based TheACTivists: Performance for Social Justice troupe performed to a sold-out crowd at the 2018 Atlanta Black Theatre Festival, and came to Rochester from a gig in New Orleans. This touring version of the show is shortened to 50 minutes; the full-length production is closer to 90 minutes. (And while the show listing says appropriate for all ages, it does contain sensitive material and swearing.)

At the end of the show, Williams and several of the cast members polled the audience about the most impactful moments in the show (it’s still being workshopped while on the road), including a request for one-word reactions to “Black Matter” as a whole. Answers were called out from around the room: “transformative,” “captivating,” “necessary,” “unapologetic,” and “powerful,” — proving the audience was not only receptive, but invested. A mighty feat, indeed, for a 50-minute workshop.

“Black Matter” will be performed again on Thursday, September 12 at Nox. 6 p.m. $11. Appropriate for all ages.

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