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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

Content warning: The program contains loud sounds in close proximity to the audience and bright lights.

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.

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

Run time: 90-100 min


Content Warning

This performance begins in the theater lobby. Audiences will take a behind the-scenes route to their seats with the performers as their guides. All seating for this performance is on stage. A live band plays in close proximity to the audience. The performance includes the use of theatrical haze. It also features loud sounds and bright, moving lights throughout.

Ear plugs are available upon request for all performances. If you need wheelchair seating or have limited mobility, staff members are available to assist you.


Access Information

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

Audio description available.

Billing & About the Artists


Creator/Choreographer/Librettist/Co-Composer/Performer: Anna Martine Whitehead

RAGE-A-THA WORLD/Dance: Jenn Freeman | Po’ Chop

WHO KNOWS/Dance: Rahila Naomi Stadem Coats

WORN’N LOVIN’ HUSTLE/Dance: Zachary Nicol

RAGE-A THA WORLD/Voice: Daniella Hope

WHO KNOWS/Voice: Nexus J

WORN’N LOVIN’ HUSTLE/Voice: Eva Supreme

DOWN’N BATTER’D/Voice: Brittany Brown

Lead Composer/Co-Music Director: Ayanna Woods

Co-Composer: Angel Bat Dawid

Co-Music Director/Keys: Teiana Davis

Drums/Percussion: Kai Black

Bass: Wyatt Wadell

Lighting Artist: Tuçe Yasak

Stage Manager/Tour Production Manager: Carissa Pinckney

Costume Designer: Sky Cubacub

Sound Engineer: Najee-Zaid Searcy


Special thanks to Phillip Armstrong and Danya Abdel Hameid for their support of this project.


About the Artists

Genre-defying artist Kai Black (Drums/Percussion) brings a freshand intensely-felt expression to the Chicago music scene. A virtuosic multi-instrumentalist born and raised in St. Louis, Kai developed their artistry as a drummer, supporting acts such as The Oh My’s, Rich Jones, Via Rosa of Drama Duo, Drea the Vibe Dealer, and more. While studying music performance at Columbia College Chicago, Kai joined fellow emerging artists Loona Dae, Gem Tree, Schenay, and Ora in forming The Highness Collective. The group’s eclectic synthesis of funk, soul, and hip-hop quickly made waves through Chicago’s underground scene. After the successful release of their self-titled EP in 2012, The Highness Collective agree to support and nurture one another in pursuing their personal projects.

Brittany Brown (DOWN’N BATTER’D/Voice) was born and raised on the South Side of Chicago. She has always had a strong passion for music and has been singing professionally since the age of 14. She has performed for and recorded with  Donald Lawrence, Todd Dulaney and Sir the Baptist. She was also a lead instructor at Gallery 37 and has been a part of numerous productions for the Black Ensemble Theater.

Rahila Naomi Stadem Coats (WHO KNOWS/Dance) is an improviser, choreographer, and dancer based in Chicago. Through the support of Twenty Percent Productions, her works have been shown at the 2018 Jerusalem Jazz Festival, MN Fringe Festival, Company Projects, Synapse Arts, Thodos Dance and Dance Works, and University of Ghana-Legon. She currently dances for Red Clay Dance and is a vocalist with music group Family Junket. She is excited to continue this journey with FORCE! and its loving constellation.

Sky Cubacub (Costume Designer; They/Them) is a non-binary queer and disabled Filipinx human from Chicago. They are the creator of Rebirth Garments, a line of wearables for trans, queer, and disabled people of all sizes and ages, which started in summer 2014. Sky is the editor of the Radical Visibility Zine, a full color cut and paste style zine that celebrates disabled queer life, with an emphasis on joy. As a multidisciplinary artist, Sky is interested in fulfilling the needs for disabled queer life, with an emphasis on joy. They have had over 45 fashion performances and lectured at the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Rhode Island School of Design, the University of Utah, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and Northwestern University. Rebirth Garments has been featured in Teen Vogue, Nylon, Playboy, Huffington Post, Buzzfeed, VICE, Wussy Mag, and the New York Times. Sky was named 2018 Chicagoan of the Year by the Chicago Tribune and is a 2019/2020 Kennedy Center Citizen Artist and a Disability Futures Fellow.

Teiana Davis (Co-Music Director/Keys) is a multidisciplinary artist hailing from the South Side of Chicago. A student of music and a pianist of over a decade, her cornucopia of talents also includes guitar, voice, and music production.

Angel Bat Dawid (Co-Composer) is a Black American composer, improviser, clarinetist, pianist, vocalist, educator, and DJ. In 2019 she released her debut album The Oracle with Chicago label International Anthem Recording Company. Recorded using only her cell phone in various locations, the album received widespread critical acclaim, with Pitchfork declaring it “a vibrant, spiritual, free-jazz document of black life as it stands today.” Known for her prowess as a bandleader and performer, Angel has composed and performed several live pieces, including her latest release Requiem for Jazz—which was originally performed at the Hyde Park Jazz Festival in 2019—and Peace: A Suite for Skylanding, commissioned by the Art Institute of Chicago as a creative response to Yoko Ono’s outdoor Sky Landing installation. She tours globally with her ensemble Tha Brothahood, with whom she released the album LIVE in October 2020, which received numerous accolades and was selected for NPR Music’s “Best Albums of 2020” and Pitchfork’s ‘Best New Music’. Angel also leads the all-woman ensemble Sistazz of the Nitty Gritty. As an educator, Angel teaches her “Great Black Music” course at Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center through Old Town School of Folk Music. She is clarinetist in Damon Locks’ Black Monument Ensemble, and she hosts a monthly music show on NTS Radio. All of this and more is why Pitchfork recently highlighted Angel‘s work in their recent “Pitchfork 25 Next” cover story and included her on the “Pitchfork 25 Next “list, which identifies a select group of artists shaping the future of music. She was also selected as the artist-in-residence for Winter Jazz Fest 2022, where she debuted her “fearless expedition to ‘Afro Town’” (WBGO). In 2021 she was named The Chicago Tribune’s “Chicagoan of the Year”, shortly following the Juneteenth release of her Hush Harbor Mixtape Vol. 1 Doxology which toured internationally. As Co-Founder and member of the performance research group Autophysiopsychic Millennium, Angel performed at Carnegie Hall’s Afrofuturism Festival in 2022. As a composer, Angel also scored original music for season two of the critically acclaimed HBO series Random Acts of Flyness; the show was created by Terence Nance, with whom Angel expressed an ode of veneration to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in their latest co-release titled “Re-Birthday”. Angel’s latest release Requiem For Jazz is out on all platforms.

Chicago-based performance artist Jenn Freeman (RAGE-A THA WORLD/Dance)—also known as Po’Chop—uses elements of dance, storytelling, and striptease to create performances and inspire students and collaborators across the country. Po’Chop is the co-founder of House of the Lorde and creator and author of the blogzine, The Brown Pages. She has performed at the Brooklyn Museum in Brown Girls Burlesque’s Bodyspeak, at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance for TEDx Chicago 2022, and headlined shows in New Orleans, Minneapolis, Denver, St. Louis, and New York. Po’Chop is a board member & cast member for Jeezy’s Juke Joint, an all-Black burlesque revue. Po’Chop performs on Netflix’s Easy (Season 2), appears in music videos for songs by Jamila Woods and Mykele Deville, and creates and performs in experimental dance films such as LITANY. Jenn Freeman was recognized as a 2022 United States Artist Fellow; a 2022 Dance/USA Fellow; a 2021 Foundation of Contemporary Art Grant for Artist recipient; selected as a 2019-2020 Urban Bush Women Choreographic Fellow; and as a 2018 Chicago Dancemakers Lab Artist. Po’Chop has been voted among the top 50 Most Influential Burlesque Artist by 21st Century Magazine in 2022, 2021, and 2020, and was dancer-in-residence at Rebuild Foundation in 2020.

Daniella Hope (RAGE-A THA WORLD/Voice) is a multifaceted healer that channels various mediums—especially music and poetry—to encourage listeners to feel, acknowledge, and accept the complexities of being. Hailing from the South Side of Chicago, she received her BA in Africana Studies from Oberlin College and was the first person to graduate with a BM in Jazz Voice from Oberlin Conservatory. Recently, she received her Master’s of Music from the Manhattan School of Music for Jazz Voice. Currently she resides in New York, and is often found performing around the city.

Nexus J. (WHO KNOWS/Voice) is the Rap-Soul-Rock Goddess making noise in Chicago. A vocal powerhouse with visceral lyricism, they seamlessly blend and bend genres to create a uniquely moving experience. It’s Nina Simone meets Megan Thee Stallion meets Hayley Williams meets Beyoncé meets Childish Gambino as Poet Laureate and yes, it’s just as iconic as it sounds. As a Black Queer celestial sent to save the world, Nexus conjures up a spectrum of storytelling to help humans believe in the magic of honest connection. Their recent series of singles Bad Girl Trilogy is packed with thrilling dynamics that culminate as an infectious celebration of femme power and unapologetic pleasure. From Thalia Hall to Lollapalooza, you may have also seen them buzzing with Chicago staple The Fly Honeys as a dancer, vocalist and/or host.

Zachary Nicol (WORN’N LOVIN’ HUSTLE/Dance) is an artist and performer based in Chicago. Their work uses research in dance, movement, site, and image to unfold problems of representation and the performing body. Their work has been presented and performed in Chicago at Blanc Gallery, Links Hall, Pivot Arts Festival, Trap Door Theatre, Co-Prosperity, Lumpen Radio, filmfront, OuterSpace, and Compound Yellow, as well as the National Museum of Romanian Literature in Bucharest and S1 Gallery in Portland. Nicol is a 2023 Chicago Dancemakers Forum Lab Artist and has been artist-in-residence with Ragdale Foundation, Annas Projects, ACRE, and Links Hall. Nicol works frequently as a collaborative and performing artist and has contributed to dance, film, and performance projects by artists such as Anna Martine Whitehead, Adam Linder, Joe Namy, Mlondi Zondi, Alexandra Pirici, Ginger Krebs, and Catherine Sullivan, among many others.

Carissa Pinckney (Stage Manager/Tour Production Manager) is a performance artist, sound artist, and educator. After receiving her BFA from Tisch School of the Arts and her MFA from the School of the Art institute of Chicago, she now spends her time acting, directing, writing, producing, stage managing, and teaching. She is currently based in Chicago.

Najee-Zaid Searcy (Sound Engineer) is a Chicago-based interdisciplinary artist focusing on makeup, music, and the arts.

Meet the extraordinary and versatile vocal artist Eva Supreme (WORN’N LOVIN’ HUSTLE/Voice), whose stunning voice has graced the stages of theater, opera, jazz, and numerous other musical genres for over a decade. With a rich and soulful timbre, Eva has captivated audiences worldwide with her powerful performances and unmatched vocal range. Hailing from a background deeply rooted in the traditions of gospel and blues, Eva seamlessly transitions between genres, infusing each with her unique flair and emotional depth. Her theatrical journey began at a young age which honed her skills in the spotlight, while her operatic prowess showcases her impeccable vocal control and classical training. Throughout her career she has garnered critical acclaim for her ability to convey raw emotion through her music, making her a sought-after artist in the world of jazz, where improvisation and storytelling are paramount. With a decade of artistic exploration under her belt, Eva Supreme continues to push boundaries and redefine what it means to be a dynamic and genre-blending vocal artist, inspiring audiences to experience the magic of music in new and profound ways.

Wyatt Wadell (Bass) is a singer, songwriter, and bass player from Chicago. He is a very versatile musician and loves to learn and absorb knowledge about his craft.

Anna Martine Whitehead (Creator/Choreographer/Librettist/Co-Composer/Performer) 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, National Endowment for the Arts, Dance/USA, the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, the Graham Foundation, 3Arts, Chicago Dancemakers Forum, and the MAP Fund.

Ayanna Woods (Lead Composer/Co-Music Director) is a GRAMMY-nominated performer, composer and bandleader from Chicago. Her music explores the spaces between acoustic and electronic, traditional and esoteric, and wildly improvisational and mathematically rigorous.

Tuçe Yasak (Lighting Artist) has been following light since her move from Istanbul to New York in 2009, creating over 100 site-specific light installations for performance in the US and abroad. Yasak received the 2018 BESSIE (…Memoirs of a… Unicorn by Marjani Forte-Saunders) and 2019 BESSIE (Oba Qween Baba King Baba by Ni’Ja Whitson) for Outstanding Visual Design with her lighting design. Among her recent collaborations: Wednesday, UGLY, HYSTERIA and BLUE by Raja Feather Kelly & the feath3r theory(NYLA, Bushwick Starr, Chelsea Factory and ImPulsTanz and Kampnagel),This Bridge Called My Ass by Miguel Gutierrez (The Chocolate Factory/NY, Montpellier Dance Festival, The Walker, The Wesner, PICA), M—ER and NOTHING by Autumn Knight (On The Boards, Abrons Arts Center, MCA Chicago and PSNY), Cannabis by Baba Israel & Grace Kalu (La Mama and HERE Arts), The Path of Pins by Pig Iron Company in Philadelphia, Jacqueline Woodson’s The Day You Begin at the Kennedy Center, Haint Blu by Urban Bush Women (a site specific/site responsive installation work presented in various venues including MASS MoCA throughout 2023), Dirt Trip by Alex Tatarsky at MoMA PS1, River by Every Ocean Hughes at the Whitney Museum, and The Malady of Death by Haegue Yang at the Guggenheim Museum, among others. Light, movement and architecture intertwine in Yasak’s work to support space-making and storytelling. Her Light Journals were presented in March 2021 by Ars Nova. In 2021, she was one of the resident artists at JACK Brooklyn. Her first solo installation light is generous was presented by Five Myles Gallery in July 2022. Yasak is one of the 2023 Resident Artists of Watermill Arts Center, where she created her installation The light comes through the heart of darkness as a homage to the lives lost from the February 2022 earthquake in Turkey.

Related Content

Hear from Laura Paige Kyber, Assistant Curator of Performance, about Anna Martine Whitehead’s FORCE! an opera in three acts.


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.


Support for FORCE! an opera in three acts

FORCE! an opera in three acts was made possible with funding by the New England Foundation for the Arts’ National Theater Project, with lead funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and additional support from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

FORCE! is a National Performance Network (NPN) Creation & Development Fund Project co-commissioned by The Chocolate Factory Theater, On the Boards, the Graham Foundation for Advance Studies in the Fine Arts, REDCAT/California Institute of the Arts, Portland Institute of Contemporary Art, and NPN. The Creation & Development Fund is supported by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, the Mellon Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts (a federal agency). For more information: www.npnweb.org

Additional support was provided by Pivot Arts, University of Chicago Arts + Public Life, St Benedict the African Parish, The Graham Foundation for the Advanced Study of fine Arts, The Vera List Center, 3Arts/3AP, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Northwestern University/Virginia Wadsworth Wirtz Centers, MAP Fund, and the House of the Lorde.

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