There Are Other Worlds Returns with a Full-Length Production


This weekend, Free Black Dirt and Intermedia Arts will present There Are Other Worlds, a play written and directed by Junauda Petrus that incorporates aerial arts with hip-hop and jazz music. The piece was first performed as a work in progress at Open Eye Figure Theatre in 2013, and now it's getting a full production at Intermedia Arts. 

Petrus created the show after receiving a Minnesota State Arts Board grant to produce something that would include the stories of black women and aerial arts. Though her initial plan was to create a series of vignettes, Petrus ended up writing a full-length play. 

For the earlier production, Open Eye was a good fit, and the show ended up selling out every night. Then Petrus heard about Intermedia's Catalyst program, which seemed like a good step up in terms of audience size and space. Catalyst also provides support with production elements, marketing, and publicity.

"Based on the popularity of the show, we thought it was better to find a space that was bigger," she says.

When Petrus first wrote the play, there weren't many black women around the Twin Cities who had experience in aerial arts. She ended up training the other cast members, and performed in the show herself. This time around, Petrus decided she really wanted to direct the piece and do additional dramaturgy, which she could do more easily if she wasn't performing. Now, instead of four performers, there are 10, with one cast member who has aerial training. The others, like last time, have mostly learned from working with Petrus. 

Petrus began practicing aerial arts in 2009 while living in New York City with a woman, Kiebpoli Calnek, who has a company called blacK*acrobat. She eventually went on to train further at a circus school in Vermont. 

"When I first got involved in circus, I was compelled by the spectacle," Petrus says. "I instantly became interested in my aesthetic as an artist. I wanted to tell stories that come from black folks, and highlight certain experiences." She felt circus arts were the perfect medium for her to create pieces.

"[In Minneapolis] there's a tremendous aerial community, but not a ton of women of color," Petrus says. She was also interested in getting people with different shapes and body types involved with the show. The cast is made up of performers, activists, artists, and healers. Petrus has been training the cast, teaching them to climb, invert, and get over the apprehension that naturally comes with trying aerial arts for the first time. 

The story in There Are Other Worlds centers on a black woman who has been locked in prison for nine years. She had been a black activist who studied yoga, and was very politically involved. The woman has two teen daughters, and their relationship has deteriorated. 

Petrus wanted to explore how families figure out healing when there's distance created. The play takes place in the late 1990s, and is infused with hip-hop and jazz, black power and black consciousness. 

The set was designed by Joy Spika and Jordan Hamilton, and Sarah White wrote the original music. 


There Are Other Worlds

Thursday through Saturday

Intermedia Arts