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Marc Bamuthi Joseph in the breaks. Photo by Bethanie Hines.^1

Marc Bamuthi Joseph and /peh-LO-tah/

A multimedia excursion across planet hip-hop, the break/s dramatically realizes the living history of the hip-hop generation through the performed personal narrative of poet Marc Bamuthi Joseph. Challenging, funny, and touching, the break/s is a deeply honest investigation into the conflicts between a young man's public and private identities coming of age in our globalized, multi-everything era. In this "mixtape for the stage," Joseph performs in call-and-response with turntablist DJ Excess, and beat boxer and percussionist Tommy Shepherd (aka Soulati). The multiple layers of meaning in their exchange are intensified by video projections, created by filmmaker Eli Jacobs Fantauzzi, composed of interviews and documentary footage of hip-hop culture throughout the world.

For the break/s, Joseph drew inspiration from Jeff Chang's 2005 American Book Award winning publication, Can't Stop Won't Stop. A remarkable team of artists and creative advisors also contributed, led by director Michael John Garcés, and including  dramaturg Brian Freeman, choreographer Stacy Printz, video and set designer David Szlaza, lighting designer James Clotfelter, and composer Ajayi Lumumba.

Simultaneously with the break/s on stage, Joseph engaged youth and communities with break/s beyond the ballot. This project engaged young writers, poets and filmmakers nationwide in collaborating and creating spoken word poems and short films, giving voice to their views on the social, cultural and political issues most important to them. Each iteration of the project was developed under the mentorship of Marc Bamuthi Joseph and Eli Jacobs-Fantauzzi, and was hosted by local partners in cities where the break/s was performed. In screenings and public performances, the young artists discussed and demonstrated their working process, and presented the products of that process to audiences of family, fr iends, schoolmates and the broader community.  

Their films, poetry and artwork can be seen on the project blog, breaksbeyondtheballot.wordpress.com

Partners in break/s beyond the ballot included: MAPP International Productions (New York, NY); The Hip Hop Theater Festival (Brooklyn, NY); Brooklyn Community Arts and Media High School/BCAM (Brooklyn, NY); Urban Word (New York, NY); Under the Radar Festival (New York, NY); Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Youth Artists at Work/YAAW (San Francisco, CA); Youth Speaks (San Francisco, CA); Walker Art Center, with Walker Teen Arts Council (Minneapolis, MN); and Brave New Voices (Minneapolis, MN).

the break/s was produced by MAPP International Productions. Lead commissioning and development support was provided by Actors Theatre of Louisville (KY); Walker Art Center (Minneapolis, MN), with support from a Joyce Foundation Award; Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (San Francisco, CA); and National Black Arts Festival (Atlanta, GA). the break/s was also commissioned by Youth Speaks through the East Bay Fund for Artists at East Bay Community Foundation, with support from the Ford Foundation's LINC Initiative, The James Irvine Foundation, The Surdna Foundation, The Wattis Foundation, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the EBCF. the break/s has received generous support from The Wallace Alexander Gerbode Foundation; The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation Emerging Playwrights 2006 Initiative; Association of Performing Arts Presenters Ensemble Theatre Collaborations Grant Program, a component of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation Theatre Initiative; The Rockefeller Foundation Multi-Arts Production Fund; The James Irvine Foundation; National Endowment for the Arts; and Zellerbach Family Foundation. the break/s was developed during residencies at Actors Theatre of Louisville (KY); Painted Bride Art Center (Philadelphia, PA); University of Wisconsin (Madison, WI); Walker Art Center (Minneapolis, MN); Z Space (San Francisco, CA).