Theater Tour Announcement: YEMANDJA (Angélique Kidjo)

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by Lamont Williams on March 11, 2022

in Theater-Los Angeles,Theater-Regional,Tours

YEMANDJA,
ANGÉLIQUE KIDJO’S FIRST FORAY INTO THEATER

After the world premiere at MASS MoCA this week, the co-commissioned Los Angeles premiere of Yemandja will take place at The Broad Stage in Santa Monica April 14, 15, and 16 at 7:30pm before the new work continues on tour  to Cal Performances at UC Berkeley on April 23. Inspired by her ancestors, her family, and Africa’s resilience, Kidjo conjures up a timely theatrical work that is at both a family drama and historical thriller, redolent of Greek tragedy and infused with themes of love, betrayal, honor, free will, and the horror and injustice of slavery.

Yemandja features Global pop star and four-time GRAMMY award winner Angélique Kidjo, who plays the Yoruba orisha Yemandja, a cast of nine Broadway performers and an eclectic musical ensemble including African percussion, electric bass, guitars, and keyboards. Yemandja is a full theatrical work of magical realism that illuminates what happens when people are robbed of their culture.

The story is set in 19th century Dahomey, the West African kingdom that once occupied the territory that is now Benin; the slave trade is in full swing. In the port city of Ouidah, where the world of the gods is close to that of men, Yemandja—deity of water and fertility—has given her protégée Omolola a secret gift: the power of song to change the course of history. But there is one caveat: the power only works if your heart is pure. As DeSalta, a Brazilian slave trader who has struck a deal  with King Akaba and controls the city, kills or enslaves those around Omolola, she struggles to access her song, her desire for revenge threatening to surpass her will to be a positive force.

Angélique Kidjo in Yemandja. Photo by Douglas Mason.

“This has been in me since I was a kid,” said Angélique Kidjo to Sharon Smullen in the Berkshire Eagle. “I heard the word “slave” when I was 9-years-old, and wanted to understand more. And to find a way to build bridges, not pointing fingers at each other, [but] working together to move forward. It’s important for me, I believe that when we work [with family] we create more sustainable, radical beauty. I want people to feel uplifted by the beauty of the story and see the possibilities that they have. People have power, but they don’t use it.”

Last year, Kidjo was honored as one of the BBC’s 100 most inspiring and influential women from around the world and named one of Time magazine’s “100 Most Influential People of 2021.” Read the Times tribute by Alicia Keys here. Yemandja is conceived by Angélique Kidjo, Jean Hebrail & Naïma Hebrail Kidjo, with book & lyrics by Naïma Hebrail Kidjo, and music by Angélique Kidjo & Jean Hebrail.  Hebrail is Kidjo’s husband of 35 years; they met when Kidjo left the then-repressive Benin for France. The text and lyrics are by their daughter, actor-writer Naïma Hebrail Kidjo. When Naïma was in college and studying Greek mythology, Kidjo was struck of the similarly of those stories with the orishas – she then spent a past decade developing Yemandja.

CREATIVE TEAM

CONCEIVED BY ANGÉLIQUE KIDJO, JEAN HEBRAIL & NAÏMA HEBRAIL KIDJO

BOOK & LYRICS NAÏMA HEBRAIL KIDJO
MUSIC ANGÉLIQUE KIDJO & JEAN HEBRAIL
DEVELOPED WITH AND DIRECTED BY CHERYL LYNN BRUCE

PRODUCTION DESIGNER | KERRY JAMES MARSHALL
COSTUME DESIGNER | MARY JANE MARCASIANO
LIGHTING DESIGNER | KATHY A. PERKINS
PROJECTIONS DESIGNER | RASEAN DAVONTE JOHNSON
CHOREOGRAPHER | BEATRICE CAPOTE
MUSIC DIRECTOR | JOHN SAMORIAN
DRAMATURG | IYVON E.
SENSITIVITY AND INTIMACY COACH | ANN JAMES
CASTING | ANDREA ZEE
PRODUCTION STAGE MANAGER | MEGHAN MAUREEN WILLIAMS

STARRING ANGÉLIQUE KIDJO

2022 Tour Schedule

March 4-5, 2022 | World Premiere Presentation at MASS MoCA (North Adams, MA)
April 14-17, 2022 | The Main Stage at The Broad Stage (Santa Monica, CA)
April 23, 2022 | Zellerbach Hall at Cal Performances (Berkeley, CA)
May 6-7, 2022 | Eisenhower Theater at Kennedy Center (Washington, DC)
June 16-18, 2022 Holland Festival (International Theatre Amsterdam, The Netherlands)
November 7-13, 2022 | Majestic Theater at ArtsEmerson
April 2023 | Brown Arts Institute
Fall 2023 | Schwarzman Center Yale University
Additional dates to be announced.

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