New Match Collective is carving out their own path in the San Diego theatre scene as the only y theatre company in San Diego to employ womxn and gender queer performers exclusively, and now they add to this by having the first week-long celebration slated specifically for Black History Month. Fête Noire: A Festival Celebrating Black Culture Across the African Diaspora and its powerful pieces and performances are the perfect way to close out February.

(left to right) Richard Clarke, William James, Carla BaNu De Jesus, Kandace Crystal, Eboni Muse, Kristen Denine
Photo credit: EM Reiter

Fête Noire: A Festival Celebrating Black Culture Across the African Diaspora started earlier this week on Monday, February 17th featuring everything from children and youth segments with readings and activities from children’s books to staged readings and a cabaret open mic night that was open to all ages. The mainstage performance Friday, February 21-23 is the two show performance of UNDERTOW and A BLACK WOMAN SPEAKS directed by Carla BaNu De Jesus.

UNDERTOW, one of the many pieces written by Eulalie Spence, is set in 1929 Harlem and follows Hattie (Kristen Denine) a wife of Dan (William James) who hasn’t been coming home in such a timely manner over the last week. Charlie (Richard Clarke) has some information on why that may be, and neighbor Mrs. Wilkes (Eboni Muse )may want to know the details, but Hattie already knows the reason and her name is Clem (Kandace Crystal).

In a one-act that explores working-class family dynamics, infidelity, love, and heightened emotions it is an intimate play. Denine is strong as Hattie, who has a deep well of bitterness that comes bubbling back up when confronted by Crystals passionate, lovely, and more well off Clem.

Directed with a deft touch by Banu de Jesus this one act, which was written in 1927, finds the issues of power, violence, and taking control of the limited choices you have to still be powerfully relevant.

The poetic performance piece A BLACK WOMAN SPEAKS written by Beah Richards in 1951 features Crystal, Denine, and Muse and is a stunningly powerful piece on race, gender, equality, and oppression from a multiracial feminist perspective. In discussing the similarity in lack of choice and equality for all women, it dives into patriarchal enslavement of white women who are as bound by the gold chains around their throats as the enslaved in chains. While white women internalized the white supremacy belief that they were somehow better than, which allowed them to keep their comforts, they, in turn, played an important role in the enslavement of women of color.

This is a rallying cry that the search for equality and the power that can be commanded when all women work together for a better future is one that could not resonate more strongly in the present.

Banu de Jesus wisely keeps the focus on the words and the three charismatic women performing the piece. Enhanced by vocals by Muse, this piece is one that should not be missed.

Fête Noire: A Festival Celebrating Black Culture Across the African Diaspora runs through Sunday, February 23rd at Arts District Liberty Station. For ticket and showtime click here

New Match Collective presents Fête Noire: A Festival Celebrating Black Culture Across the African Diaspora in the Theatre Arts School San Diego and information can be found on them at www.theatreartssd.org