Installation view of "Emancipating the Past: Kara Walker's Tales of Slavery and Power"
Playwright Kemp Powers and director May Adrales drew powerful inspiration for the upcoming play Little Black Shadows from the shadow-like silhouette paintings by Kara Walker.
Contemporary artist Kara Walker is recognized for creating black-and-white silhouette pieces that involve themes of African-American racial identity. Often choosing subjects involving slavery or conflict, these art pieces illustrate tales of the pre-Civil War era.
“I didn’t want a completely passive viewer,” shares Walker. “I wanted to make work where the viewer wouldn’t walk away; he would either giggle nervously, get pulled into history, into fiction, into something totally demeaning and possibly very beautiful.”
It’s easy to understand why these visually powerful pieces evoked such inspiration for Little Black Shadows. The world that exists inside this drama is quite magical at times, especially when seen through the eyes of two young children. The design concept very much pulls from these art pieces to immerse the audience in this world.
“The shadow world is something that the production really centers on,” explains Adrales. “It’s monochromatic in its color and that gives it a theatrical sensibility. But I also feel like it just captures the world of this play. There is a high use of projections, and one of the inspirations that we’ve been using for the story that the children tell is a lot of Kara Walker imagery. For the characters of Toy and Colis, they can only come alive, be themselves and be together as one another in the secret of the night. It’s a very black-and-white world.”
Read a profile of Walker and her work from The New York Times
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