This weekend, Sharon Nyree Williams brings Dare to Claim the Sky to ACT Theatre, alongside work from three other solo performers; and On the Boards features five dancers and seven durational works in its own solo fest later this month.
In any conversation with Sharon Nyree Williams, Executive Director of the Central District Forum for Arts and Ideas, one thing is obvious: her boundless energy for the artists she champions, no matter how many other projects she’s working on. Somewhat lesser known, because she’s less apt to tell you about it, is the fact that she’s an accomplished artist in her own right.
But her solo work has been blowing up recently, in book form (Dare to Claim the Sky, with a forward by esteemed director Valerie Curtis-Newton), on stage at the Neptune Theatre and around the country, and in a forthcoming album release (Shook, recorded at the venerable London Bridge Studio, where some of Seattle rock’s biggest albums were made).
Now she brings that work to the stage at ACT Theatre for its first-ever Solo Fest. Her performance, Dare to Claim the Sky, will invite audiences into Williams’s “proverbial living room,” to witness “a frank conversation about faith, family, and the joy and pain of being Black in America.” Her delivery is through short works, the poetic and the narrative, the familial and the larger world.
Williams’s written work considers wide-ranging topics — taking flight with her own ambitions (Dream) and collapsing against expectations (Don’t Ask Me How I Feel); Southern roots and family loss (Brother’s Prayer); and the ongoing need for Black History Month (Because y’all keep doing Dumb Shit). Expect the same to appear in her performance this weekend.
Dare to Claim the Sky runs Thursday through Sunday in ACT Theatre’s intimate Lalie space. Also in the festival are a double-bill from Sherif Amin (Left on Yellow Brick Road) and Jasmine Joshua (Bread Crumbs) (performing next weekend); and Susan Lieu (Over 140 Lbs) (both weekends).
And ACT’s isn’t the only Solo Fest this month. Later on in February (20-23), On the Boards carries on its lively season with Solo: A Festival of Dance, featuring “inquisitive and personal performance” by five dancers (Jade Solomon Curtis, Allie Hankins, jumatatu m. poe, Adrienne Truscott, and Mariana Valencia), plus durational work throughout the building by seven more artists (Anna Banana Freeze, Laura Carella, Carlin Kramer, Michael O’Neal Jr. (Majinn), Noelle Price, Zoe Scofield, and Emma Wheeler).
On the Boards’s Solo festival is co-curated by Dani Tirrell, who also curates CD Forum programming (including Showing Out: Contemporary Black Choreographers and the Sunday Dinner series) alongside Williams. Even for an artist who seems to be everywhere, Tirrell has a busy month. The mega-hit Black Bois, which Tirrell choreographed and premiered in On the Boards’s 2018 season, shows for one night only at the Moore (February 14); and the cast gathers the next day for a special (Saturday) edition of Sunday Dinner.
Dare to Claim the Sky runs 2/6 through 2/9 at ACT Theatre in Downtown Seattle. Tickets are $20, available here. Solo Fest runs through 2/16; see shows and info here. Accessibility notes: restrooms are gendered and multi-stall; there is one single-stall, gender-neutral restroom on the second floor near the elevator (far away from the Lalie and Bullitt, where the festival shows are held). Theatre and common areas are wheelchair accessible.
Solo: A Festival of Dance runs 2/20 through 2/23 at On the Boards, in Lower Queen Anne. Tickets are $28 ($33 with fees) advance; info here. Accessibility notes: restrooms are gender-neutral and multi-stall; theatre and common areas are wheelchair accessible. Financial accessibility: sliding scale tickets (starting at $10) available to all in advance for Sunday’s performance; and learn about the Ticket Bank here.
Chase D. Anderson is Editor & Producer of NWTheatre.org.