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“The Venus Project” at ASU examines African American theatre's history during Black History Month

January 06, 2006

TEMPE, Ariz. - The School of Theatre and Film in the ASU Herberger College of Fine Arts presents a rare opportunity for Valley theatre lovers to learn more about African American theatre through The Venus Project, Feb. 17-25.   The event includes the production of the thought-provoking play Venus and a symposium featuring national artists.

Venus is based on the life of Saartje Baartman, known as the "Venus Hottentot," a woman lured from her African home and placed in a London freak show by those fascinated by her large posterior. Written by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks, who won an Obie Award for Venus , the play interweaves theatrical forms to examine ethics, stereotypes and exploitation.

Part performance poetry, part semi-linear play, part anatomical lecture, Venus is a fusion of theatrical styles and devices. Guest artist Laurie Carlos, herself an Obie and Bessie award- winner, directs the production. Nadine Jackson, also a guest artist, stars as Venus.

To coincide with the production, ASU is hosting a free public symposium Feb. 17-18 about African and African American performance in contemporary theatre as it relates to the African Diaspora. Guest speakers include director Laurie Carlos; playwright Carl Hancock Rux, Obie award-winner for Talk ; Gus Edwards and Paul Carter-Harrison, co-editors of the book Black Theatre: Ritual Performance in the African American Diaspora ; Douglas Turner Ward, a founding member of the Negro Ensemble Company; David Hemphill, artistic director of Phoenix Black Theatre Troupe; Kathy Perkins of the University of Illinois; and Lisa Anderson, ASU assistant professor of Women and Gender Studies and Theatre.

Linda Essig, director of the Herberger College School of Theatre and Film, said the Venus Project is "an extraordinary opportunity for the general public and ASU community to place an important work of dramatic literature in a cultural context. I'm delighted that the National Endowment for the Arts has chosen to support this event through its Challenge America program."

Of the 135 NEA Challenge America grants awarded, The Venus Project was the only university theatre project to receive support.

The symposium also includes a video screening of contemporary Ghanian performance and a staged reading of the play Two Old Black Guys Just Sitting Around Talking , by Gus Edwards, playwright and professor in the School of Theatre and Film. The symposium is co-sponsored by ASU's Intergroup Relations Center and the Departments of English, Women and Gender Studies and African and African American Studies. Most activities are free and open to the public.

For more details, go to .

Venus is appropriate for mature audiences and contains partial nudity and sexual content.

Tickets for Venus are $5-$20 and available online at or through the Herberger College Box Office, 480-965-6447.   Show times are 7:30 p.m., Feb. 17-18 and 23-25; at the Galvin Playhouse in the Nelson Fine Arts Center, southeast corner of 10 th Street and Mill Ave.  

The Herberger College School of Theatre and Film moves the arts of theatre and film into the future with student production opportunities; curricula; and professional productions that enrich the cultural life of the university, the community and the region. For more information, go to .

Media Contact:
Denise Tanguay