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Anna Martine Whitehead, FORCE! an opera in three acts

March 28, 20247:30 pm

March 29, 20247:30 pm

March 30, 20247:30 pm

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CART and Audio Description available Sat, Mar 30

About the Performance

This is an opera, but what is an opera? If opera is defined simply as “big work,” what could be blacker? FORCE! features a live band that blends gospel, folk, pop, and jazz, with experimental dance, song, and the spoken word. As the work unfolds, characters reveal layered interiors creating a strange sisterhood with the power to disintegrate walls that blooms in the shadows of the prison industrial complex. As the artists manifest the free worlds of which they dream on stage, their voices resound with collective power. A meditation on often-overlooked spaces—prison waiting rooms—FORCE! travels through silence, sound, and rhythm to dissipate borders between performers and audience members and question who truly controls how their time is spent.

Comprised of a Chicago-based cast, FORCE! is created by Anna Martine Whitehead alongside co-music directors, Ayanna Woods and Teiana Davis; co-composers, Phillip Armstrong and Angel Bat Dawid; and is devised in collaboration with performers Zachary Nicol, Jenn Freeman, Rahila Coats, Eva Supreme, Nexus J, Daniella Hope, Brittany Brown, Kai Black, and Wyatt Wadell; with extra help from Tramaine Parker and Jasmine Mendoza.

Since late 2019, FORCE! has developed as an iterative re-imagining of performance practice, constantly re-centering care, consent, queer divergence, and rest. The creative team re-imagines rehearsal protocols and releases disciplinary categories to build an abolitionist feminist theater practice. This project gathers lessons from lichens and other emergent strategies, direct actions, and mutual aid societies and leverages sound and movement as vectors for processing state violence and racial capitalism. Using the prison as a particular prism through which we can bear witness to the ways carceral systems replicate themselves. FORCE! is also an attempt to abolish the Prison Industrial Complex in the audience and artist’s heads, hearts, and houses.

Libretto by Anna Martine Whitehead. Composed by Ayanna Woods, Anna Martine Whitehead, Angel Bat Dawid, and Philip Armstrong.

Runtime: approx. 80 min.

This performance is part of On Stage: Resonance, organized by Tara Aisha Willis, former Curator in Performance, with Laura Paige Kyber, Curatorial Associate.

The performance on Saturday, March 30, includes CART captioning and Audio Description.

Audio description available.

About the Artists

Anna Martine Whitehead does performance from the homelands of the Council of the Three Fires, as well as the Miami, Ho-Chunk, Sauk, Meskwaki; and the Kickapoo, Peoria, and Sioux Nations. They make art and write about race, gender, and moving bodies; and support coalition movements committed to repair and transformation. Their solo work and collaborative processes have been presented by the Renaissance Society, the San José Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. They have received fellowships and awards from the Vera List Center, Dance/USA, the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, the Graham Foundation Fellow, 3Arts, Chicago Dancemakers Forum, and the MAP Fund.

Ayanna Woods is a GRAMMY-nominated performer, composer, and bandleader from Chicago. Her music explores the spaces between acoustic and electronic, traditional, and esoteric, wildly improvisational and mathematically rigorous.


Lead support for the 2023-24 season of MCA Performance and Public Programs is provided by Elizabeth A. Liebman.

Generous support is provided by Ginger Farley and Bob Shapiro, Martha Struthers Farley and Donald C. Farley, Jr. Family Foundation, N.A., Trustee; Susan Manning and Doug Doetsch; Carol Prins and John Hart/The Jessica Fund; and an anonymous donor.

Additional generous support is provided by Diane Kahan and Anne L. Kaplan.

The MCA is a proud member of the Museums in the Park and receives major support from the Chicago Park District.