Anansi, The Story King
adapted and directed by Nadine George-Graves
Arthur Wagner Theatre, UC San Diego
March 16-18, 2017
About the Play
Anansi, the spider, wants to own all the stories in the world. Nyame, the sky god, has all the stories and is willing to give them to Anansi…for a steep price. When Sheri, the firefly, gets caught in Anansi’s web, she quickly figures out how to help him on his quest (and perhaps save herself at the same time)! With Sheri’s help, Anansi goes on a journey to find Nyame’s three items. Along the way, he finds out a thing or two about himself and the ways in which we are all connected, like the complex tangle of a spider’s web. An ensemble provides stories, music, singing and dancing as the two adventurers help Anansi fulfill his lifelong wish. Family friendly and for all ages!
The Creative Team
Adapter/Director – Nadine George-Graves
Composer – M’Balia Singley
Arranger – Kenny Seymore
Musical Director – Kyle Adam-Blair
Scenic / Props Designer – Mikhaila Powers
Costume Designer – Evan Kwong
Lighting Designer – Minjoo Kim
Community Outreach Coordinator – Alison Urban
Producer – Nicholas Lewis
Assistant Director – Jim Short
Assistant Costume Designer – Vicky Nguyen
Production Stage Manager – Kasson Marroquin
Assistant Stage Manager – Bryan P. Clements
Production Assistant – Jalani Blankenship
“To Kamila, Akeem & Akil, Your life is not complete until you’ve read ‘Anansi’ stories. Many blessings upon you, Sincerely, Kristin 1994.”
This is the inscription in a used book of Anansi stories that I purchased at a quaint little website. The packaging slip says it came from a bookseller in Cascade, Colorado. I think about provenance, legacy, and connections. I think about where this book of stories might have traveled. Who are these people? What is their relationship? It is a mighty big statement to say that one must know Anansi stories to have a complete life. What does it mean that it made its way to me? The journey of not only this book of Anansi stories but of all Anansi stories is part and parcel of the stories of African Diaspora. I first encountered Anansi stories as a child on a trip to Jamaica to visit my maternal relatives. My aunt Gerry, a school teacher in Spanish Town, gave me a copy of Anansi and Miss Lou and thus began my fascination with Anansi stories. As a child Anansi was a distinctly Carribean experience for me. Only later did I understand the Diasporic connections possible through the Anansi figure. Rereading these texts inspired me to create the aesthetic and academic investigation that has become The Anansi Project.
Anansi was/is a god, man, sometimes woman and spider. He is at times a trickster and at other times the one tricked. He rarely works for his food, which leads some to define him as lazy. Yet he always manages to eat, which lead some to define his as clever. Survival: Anansi survives in the stories and his stories have survived over hundreds of years, across oceans, in both oral and written forms. I see the web of stories that Anansi spins as a metaphor for the ways in which we remain connected to people over time, geography, cultural differences, etc. Like a 21st century notion of African Diaspora, our production of Anansi, the Story King is a postmodern mash-up of cultural influences that explores different ways of meaningfully connecting with others.
These stories have significant reach, occurring in all parts of the African Diaspora in one form or another. They span the globe like a giant game of cultural telephone taking on local nuances while maintaining Diasporic similarities. Two stories in particular, Anansi Becomes the Owner of All Stories and Anansi and the Pot of Wisdom, have Anansi negotiating with Nyame, the sky god, for sole proprietorship of essential qualities—history/memory and knowledge. These quests articulate projects crucial to critical race and Diasporic theory. In addition to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness (or property) the transatlantic slave trade also attempted to deny the acquisition of information and the maintenance of tradition.
Like internet spidering, this production seeks to reach out, connect and gather. I hope you’ll join us on this wonderful creative and intellectual exploration.
Click the production shots below to preview larger images.