In A Maroon’s Guide to Time and Space, audiences are asked to free themselves from the constraints of linear time. Actress Brittny Bush calls it “a circular story experience” with Afrofuturism and space travel that tells the story of Harriet Tubman.
“It’s more about having experience and time is relative. It breaks the fourth wall and says ‘Hey, let’s get you calibrated for this journey.’ And then it takes you on this journey that Harriet Tubman had a brain injury that caused her to have seizures and visions. That’s sort of the jumping off point. What was she seeing and was it something that potentially was prophetic.”
Bush described Tubman’s vision as: “In spite of everything around me telling me that I am less than or that this is the law of the land, that I’m property, I know I’m free. How do they have that knowledge, how do they know that. Maybe because they’re accessing that portal and transcending time and space.
Lately Tubman has been the subject of several works of non-fiction and fiction (Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad) and television shows. Asked why this increased interest in the story of the woman who helped slaves to freedom, Bush said:
“Harriet Tubman, we know she existed. We know she was a spy and Mother Moses and what she did. So I think probably there are a lot of things happening in the collective artistic source and political situations that are making it really exciting to tap into the energy of Harriet Tubman. This brazen fight to be free without anybody telling her to do it. She just somehow knew. My people are free; they’re meant to be free. And I’m going to make it happen. “
In discussions during rehearsals, she said, “We were even realizing she didn’t know how to read I think it’s very inspiring when we have so many resources at our disposal, except maybe that kind of chutzpah that she had. We have everything else but her guts to fight for freedom. If we can tap into the circumstances of Harriet’s life and bring that to the public consciousness again and the public imagination again then maybe it can inspire people to make change.
The show at Catstrophic Theatre at the MATCH is directed by Mikala Gibson and the play’s author Candice D’Meza, who is known for working in several different mediums. The cast includes Anthony August, Rennette Brown, D’Meza, Byron Jacquet and Crystal Rae in addition to Bush. Bush plays several roles: a professor, a being from beyond and a producer.
Bush, who’s impressed in several roles in Houston theater productions (Main Street Theater: The Book of Will, Classical Theatre Company: The Government Inspector, Catastrophic Theatre Bootycandy), is a primary school teacher of theater and a library teacher at a private school in the area.
Describing the new work, she said: “It feels very Doctor Who to me. Or like Sandman. It has more of that kind of feeling to me where it breaks those [story telling] rules on purpose to get you to think differently. You push people so they’re a little off-balance, and from that off-balance place you are open more things.
“You kind of have to sit up in your seat and really pay attention to what’s going on. It’s calling on you to be more active.”
While the actors don’t sing and dance as in a musical, they were encouraged to do what they are moved to do by the directors. “In this show there is a lot of room for creativity,” Bush said. Audience members will be encouraged to sing and dance if so moved. But it’s not an interactive show either. “It’s not forcing you to engage if you don’t want to,” she added.
Asked why she wanted to be in the show, Brush responded: “Candice D’Meza because I admire her work and I admire her as an artist. I’ve seen her on stage acting and I think she’s amazing. And also I’ve seen the moves she makes as an artist. She had a gallery event at one point. She just does a lot of outside of the box things and really pushes herself to be multi-dimensional as an artist. She’s producing and writing and directing and doing films. Her work thematically is very brave. It’s very truthful and unflinching in a way I admire. It’s exciting to collaborate with someone like that. But also I thought it would be really fun.”
Bush said people should see the show because “You have not seen this before. I think it stirs the pot in a way that we’re all hungry for. It’s such a cathartic experience.
“As an audience member it’s a huge gift to just strap yourself into the roller coaster seat and you didn’t have to do any math. You didn’t have to do any engineering to make the roller coaster. You just get to go on the ride. And hopefully at the end of it be expanded as a person. That at the end of your roller coaster ride you’ll be more free to be you.”
Performances are scheduled for May 26 through June 17 at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays and 2:30 p.m. Sundays at MATCH, 3400 Main. For more information, call 713-521-4533 or visit matchhouston.org. $35 or pay what you can.