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7NMS | Marjani Forté-Saunders and Everett Saunders, Prophet: The Order of the Lyricist

May 09, 20247:30 pm

May 10, 20247:30 pm

May 11, 20247:30 pm

The May 11 performance includes a conversation and Q&A with the artists post-performance, and Audio Description and CART captioning.

About the Performance

A multi-genre storytelling project about the life journey of a lyricist, Prophet: The Order of the Lyricist illuminates the distinctive practices, systems, philosophies, and political ideologies that have shaped hip-hop’s emcees and lyricists. Combining craft, prose, oration, and exposé, the work presents the coming-of-age story of an emcee, immersing audiences in a world of courage, self-determination, and devotion. Using text, sound, film, and performance, Prophet stands as a critical and embodied offering to the scholarly, civic, and ancient bodies of radical Black expression.

The MCA’s presentation of Prophet, represents the culmination of a year of relationship-building with organizations, artists, and archives. It features audio clips from the Sun Ra Archive within the Experimental Sound Studio.

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: 60 min.

Stay after the May 11 performance for a conversation and Q&A with the artists, moderated by Tara Aisha Willis, Former MCA Curator of Performance.


Content Warning

This performance includes the use of theatrical haze and moving images projected throughout the space.

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 Saturday, May 11, performance features Audio Description and CART captioning.

Audio description available.

Billing & About the Artists



Writer/Composer/Sound Designer/Performer: Everett Saunders

Choreographer/Performer: Marjani Forté-Saunders

Musician/Trumpet (May 9 and 10): Ralph Darden

Musician/Trumpet (May 11): Dakarai Barclay

Co-Composer: Chris Williams

Media Designer/Filmmaker/Thought-Partner: Meena Murugesan

Dancer: Marcella Lewis

Directorial Consultant: d. Sabela grimes

Dramaturg/Literary Coach: Omi Osun Joni L. Jones

Dramaturg/Literary Coach: Sharon Bridgeforth

Hip Hop Connoisseur/Thought-Partner: Rahaman “Kil” Kilpatrick

Costume Design: Shvawn “Siren” Bausley

Production Manager/Lighting Designer: John D. Alexander

About the Artists

7NMS|Marjani Forté-Saunders + Everett Saunders is the public emergence of Marjani Forté-Saunders and Everett Saunders’s collaborative work in radically engaging art as a medium of elevation, healing, and futurity. With seven award-winning projects within 10 years, 7NMS totes a revolutionary commitment to the Black radical imagination. Prophet is an awardee of the 2020 MAP Fund and 2020 New Music USA Award, and the National Dance Project Production and Touring Grant 2021. Marjani is a 2019 FCA Fellowship awardee, a three-time Bessie award winner, and an inaugural recipient of the Jerome Hill, Dance USA and UBW Choreographic Center Fellowships. Everett is the composer and thought-partner behind the award-winning and internationally touring production, Memoirs of a.. Unicorn, and a two-time New Music USA Awardee. His recent work can be found as composer/sound designer on Jaamil Kosoko’s Chameleon, mayfield brooks’s Whale Fall, and Urban Bush Women’s Hair & Other Stories (2018).

While incubating Prophet through their Fall 2020 and Winter 2021 Satellite Residencies in their newly erected home studios, 7NMS worked in close collaboration with co-visionaries d. Sabela grimes (movement composer and sound archivist), Meena Murugesan (filmmaker & media designer), and Marc Winston (photographer) to produce the latest filmic iteration of Prophet, commissioned by Jacob’s Pillow.

Chris Ryan Williams (Co-Composer) is an interdisciplinary artist based in Brooklyn, New York, that collaborates at home with improvisers and experimentalists. During his years in Los Angeles, Williams was mentored by multi-reedist Bennie Maupin, whose teachings instilled a conviction in finding one’s own path in life through sound. Concurrently, he spent time in the community band Pan-Afrikan Peoples Arkestra. These collaborations continue to influence his musical journey as a recent addition to the New York creative community, one in which elders and young folk (in spirit, age, and experience) share a space in creation. Williams’s work explores the dyad of ancestral trauma and power existing in all Black Americans: I Ain’t Got No Spare (2019) is a modular video and performance piece that explores the rich legacy of Black music and film in Los Angeles; House of Peace (2021) is a video installation and soundscape blending fabricated and ‘real’ memories across generations; Of Yours (2020) is a free-jazz setting for imagined exchanges between Black leaders. Recent grants and residencies include, Foundation of Contemporary Arts, Musik installationen Nürnburg, Atlantic Center for the Arts, WasteLAnd, and MATA Festival. Williams has collaborated with Bennie Maupin, Nicole Mitchell, Fay Victor, and Luke Stewart.

Meena Murugesan (Media Designer/Filmmaker/Thought-Partner) (they/them) is an award-winning video artist and movement artist living on Tongva-Kizh land, or Los Angeles. Meena creates experimental non-linear narratives at the intersection of live performance, video art installation, and social issues. Grappling with the practices of improvisation, somatic bodywork, brahminized bharatanatyam, collage, projection mapping, and contemplative documentary, Meena centers an anti-racist, anti-caste, feminist, queer, melanin-rich, creative liberatory practice. They are directing a multimedia series entitled Dravidian Futurities about African-Dravidian connections, casteism, colorism, and trance/possession movement rituals. Meena is a current founding member of two collectives: SADA (South Asian Dance Artists, Mellon awardee 2021-2026) and SiriusShapeShifters (with d. Sabela grimes). Meena’s dance, video art, or video projection design work has been presented at Getty Museum, Getty Villa, Underground Museum, Broad Museum, MOCA LA, The Ford Amphitheater, Pieter, LACE, UCLA, ODC, YBCA, Dance Mission, Abrons Arts Center, Gibney, NYLA, 651 Arts, EMPAC, Jacob’s Pillow, SOPHIENSALE, Pearlstein Gallery, Black Star Film Festival, ICA Philadelphia, Opera Omaha, Tangente, MAI, Le Gesu, Monument National, and more.

Marcella Lewis (Dancer) is a recipient of the Princess Grace Award in Dance. Ms. Lewis hails from Los Angeles, CA, where she began her dance training at the Lula Washington Dance Theatre. She then continued her studies at the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts (LACHSA), and later received her BFA from the Purchase Conservatory of Dance in 2016, where she was awarded the Adopt-A-Dancer Scholarship. She joined A.I.M by Kyle Abraham in fall 2016 as a dancer, soloist, and company liaison. Marcella was featured with A.I.M in Dance Magazine in August 2017 and was mentioned in the New York Times for the A.I.M’s Joyce season in May 2018. Marcella is currently a performer with TRIBE multidisciplinary visual performances and is a freelance artist, choreographer, and teacher in Los Angeles and New York.

Ralph Darden (Trumpet Player, May 9 and 10) is a Chicago-based musician, DJ, composer & educator. For nearly 3 decades, Ralph has been writing music, recording, and performing in various touring bands. He currently plays guitar and sings backing vocals for Ted Leo & The Pharmacists. He Dj’s events around the globe under the moniker of DJ Major Taylor. His scratch-laden, dance-friendly, genre-defying sets, showcase an ability to weave his eclectic palate of influences into a sonic tapestry distinctly his own. Ralph is also a music instructor at Bandwith Chicago a non-profit organization that provides quality music education to children in underserved communities.

Dakarai Barclay (Trumpet Player, May 11) is based in Chicago, Illinois. Dakarai completed his undergraduate studies at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia and recently finished his graduate studies at William Paterson University in 2023. Outside of leading his own projects, Dakarai has played with musicians such as Willerm Delisfort, Winard Harper, Marlene Rosenberg, Jarrard Harris, and many more. He can be seen performing in various venues throughout Chicago and the New York/New Jersey area.

d. Sabela grimes (Directorial Consultant) be a trans-media storyteller, sonic ARKivist, and movement composer. Improvisational systems and collaboration are at the heart of his creative practice, inhaling through socio-historical observation, self-examination, and speculative meanderings, and exhaling through layers of interconnected sonic, visual, and kinesthetic arrangements. Sabela be investing in the poetics of assemblage, the magic of mutability, and mastering misuse. Past projects include Philly XP, World War WhatEver, 40 Acres & A Microchip and ELECTROGYNOUS. Sabela’s current collaborative endeavor with Meena Murugesan, Parable of Portals, dreams Butler’s professional and personal writings into live performances, audio-visual installations, site-specific short films, and interactive community activations. Each experience realizes quantum Blackness as a means to play within the nowness of recurring futures. On faculty at USC’s Glorya Kaufman School of Dance, he continues to cultivate Funkamental MediKinetics, a movement system that draws on the layered dance training, community building, and spiritual practices evident in Black vernacular and Hip Hop/Street dance forms. He is a 2023 USC Associates Award for Artistic Expression recipient, 2021 Bessie Award winner for Outstanding Performer, 2017 County of Los Angeles Performing Arts Fellow, and 2014 United States Artists Rockefeller Fellow.

Omi Osun Joni L. Jones (Dramaturg/Literary Coach) is an artist/scholar/facilitator who employs Black Feminist aesthetics and theatrical jazz principles in her work. Her original performances include sista docta, a critique of academic life, and Searching for Ọ̀ṣun, an ethnographic performance installation around the Divinity of the River. Her dramaturgical work includes August Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean and Shay Youngblood’s Shakin’ the Mess Outta Misery—both under the direction of Daniel Alexander Jones—as well as Sharon Bridgforth’s con flama under the direction of Laurie Carlos. Her most recent book is Theatrical Jazz: Performance, Àṣẹ, and the Power of the Present Moment, a collaborative ethnography focusing on three theatrical jazz practitioners. Omi has been shaped by Robbie McCauley’s activist art, Laurie Carlos’s insistence on being present, and Barbara Ann Teer’s overt union of Art and Spirit. She earned her Ph.D. from New York University, and her Embodied Social Justice Certificate from Transformative Change. She is Professor Emerita from the African and African Diaspora Studies Department at the University of Texas at Austin, a mother, a Queer wife, and a curious sojourner.

A 2022 Winner of Yale’s Windham Campbell Prize in Drama, Sharon Bridgforth (Dramaturg/Literary Consultant) is a 2020-2023 Playwrights’ Center Core Member, a 2022-2023 McKnight National Fellow, and a New Dramatists alum. She has received support from The Doris Duke Performing Artist Award, Creative Capital, MAP Fund, and the National Performance Network. A MAP Fund Scaffolding for Practicing Artists Coach, Sharon’s work is featured in Teaching Black: The Craft of Teaching on Black Life and Literature and Mouths of Rain an Anthology of Black Lesbian Thought. Sharon’s Lambda Literary Award-winning the bull-jean stories will be produced by Pillsbury House + Theatre in October/November 2022, directed by Signe Harriday. Her dat Black Mermaid Man Lady/The Show is streaming on the Twin Cities PBS platform. Sharon has served as a dramaturg for the Urban Bush Women Choreographic Center Initiative’s Choreographic Fellowship program, and is proud to be in deep process with 7NMS. More at: https://www.sharonbridgforth.com.

In 1984, when Rahaman “Kil” Kilpatrick (Hip Hop Connoisseur/Thought-Partner) was 10 years old, he saw Run DMC performing “Rock Box” on American Bandstand and knew he wanted to be part of the hip hop culture. While other kids were asking their parents for toys for Christmas, Kil begged his parents to buy him two turntables so he could be a DJ. In 1992 Kil began attending Morgan State University and saw an article in Vibe magazine that Bobbito wrote highlighting the dopest hip hop radio shows. When he saw Morgan’s show Strictly Hip Hop 88.9 was named, he knew he had to become part of that show! For the next 7 years, from 1994-2001, Kil hosted Strictly Hip Hop, which is currently the longest running hip hop radio show on the east coast. After graduating from Morgan State, Kil dedicated his life to helping teens in Washington DC by running numerous teen centers throughout the city. He’s gone on to become a music producer who has produced for groups such as MOP, Maffew Ragazino, RJ Payne and Pete Rock’s 1st artist signed his record label Amxxr. He also hosts a weekly hip hop podcast, Apt. 5B.

Los Angeles native Shvawn “Siren” Elyse (Costume Design) is a dancer, actress, and costume designer for unique artists around the world. A lover of the arts, she has worked on her crafts for many years and has acquired a B.A. in Theatre and B.A. in Dance.

John D. Alexander (Lighting Design) OFF-BROADWAY: Packages O’ The Things We Deliver (Nat’l Black Theatre); Lambs 2 Slaughter (Cherry Lane Theatre) and Migration: Reflections on Jacob Lawrence (New Victory Theater). Recent designs include: Sanctuary Road (Virginia Opera); Confederates (Mosaic Theatre Co.); Selling Kabul (Signature Theatre); From the Mississippi Delta (Westport Country Playhouse); Crying on Television (Everyman Theatre); Quamino’s Map (Chicago Opera Theatre); B.R.O.K.E.N. Code B.I.R.D. Switching (Berkshire Theatre Group); Sheepdog and The House of the Negro Insane (Contemporary American Theatre Festival). Upcoming designs include: Is God Is (Constellation Theater) and Sleepova (Olney Theatre Center).

Related Content

Hear from Laura Paige Kyber, Assistant Curator of Performance, about the 7NMS performance Prophet: The Order of the Lyricist.

Subscribe to MCA NOW for more podcasts from the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.


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 the Project

This engagement of 7NMS: Marjani Forté Saunders + Everett Saunders is made possible through the ArtsCONNECT Program of Mid Atlantic Arts with support from the National Endowment of the Arts. Learn more at www.midatlanticarts.org.

National Endowment for the Arts LogoMid Atlantic Arts Foundation Logo.

PROPHET is co-commissioned by Abrons Arts Center and Kelly Strayhorn Theater. PROPHET is a recipient of: The New England Foundation 2021 National Dance Production & Touring Award, the 2020

New Music USA Award, the 2020 MAP Fund, National Performance Network: Documentation and Story Telling Fund, and the Princess Grace Foundation: Special Projects Award.

New England Foundation Logo.New Music USA logo.Mapfund logo.National Performance Network logo.

This work was supported and co-produced by the platform, Art x Power. 7NMS|Art x Power is 2020 recipient of the WHH Foundation seed grant, and a Doris Duke Charitable Foundation grant recipient for Strategic Planning, with consultants P.S. 314. Art x Power is a 7NMS Platform, offering a radical approach to investing in and building resilient futures for Black Artists and Experimenters.