Actor, writer, singer, educator and activist Tamara Della Anderson announced the launch of Gumbo Lab, a mentorship and professional development lab and virtual showcase for Black female, trans, queer, and femme theatre artists in December of 2020. Now, Anderson has just announced a virtual showcase for the first cohort of the Solo Project.
According to a release, the streamed performances are Fridays and Saturdays on Feb. 19 , 20, 26, and 27. The three performing artists in the Project include Ang Bey (from Philadelphia), Nikki Gee (from Chicago), and Vida Landron (from New York City). Gumbo Lab is presenting the performances in collaboration with the independent female-forward producer Juniper Productions, who they partnered with in the past. Each weekend will also be hosted by a Philadelphia theatre, the First World Theatre Ensemble.
“Gumbo Lab is the way for us to be seen, heard, and celebrated. After 20 years as a professional actor, I have only been in professional creative spaces where everyone or the majority looked like me three times. So, I am putting Blackness in the center of this space to facilitate a ‘new normal.’ When the pandemic hit, life for artists changed overnight. Theaters and studios closed and work came to a halt. Theater spaces are being challenged and demand is high for diversity and equity conversations to move toward actual policy changes — ones that no longer marginalize, harass, or demean Black or female bodies. Gumbo Lab is the nourishing community we never thought we needed,” said Anderson in a statement.
Anderson paved the way for the new collaboration having credits in directing (a short titled “Dating Chronicles”), receiving a nomination for the Critics Choice Award for Best Supporting Actress for her stage work, and also being on hit shows on NBC, Netflix and Starz—just to name a few accolades.
The first collaboration for The Solo Lab took place on Dec. 19, as mentioned before, in collaboration with Juniper Productions, an independent female-forward creative producer based in Philadelphia, and was titled “A Soul Full Celebration for The Solo Lab.” Since 2017, Juniper has opened restaurants, distilleries, hotels, museums and cafe doors to “quality theatrical experiences for thousands of people,” and is currently producing theatrical events online.
The Residency itself provided free professional developmental workshops for four Black female theatre artists, who paired with a Black director-dramaturg and cinematographer. The collaboration began with an evening of “soul-stirring” entertainment hosted by Philadelphia’s own Starfire and featured live and taped performances by Tayo Aluko, Tamara Della Anderson, Bethlehem the Artist, Jennifer Fouche, Marquis Gibson, Donnie Hammond, Joilet Harris, Daniela Paz, Bethlehem Roberson, Victor Rodriguez, and Brian Anthony Wilson. The evening acted as a fundraiser for Gumbo Lab.
The four theatre artists in the first cohort were Bey, Gee, Landron, and Deja Morgan, and the director-mentors were Lisa Strum and Marquis D. Gibson, both from New York City. The cinematographers (video liaisons) are Philadelphia’s Stephanie Malson and Ariel Taylor. Now the Lab’s first cohort will showcase their work, through Gumbo Lab to audiences and producers this month.
The Solo Lab Project is also supported by grants from The Leeway Foundation and BLM – Philly. Tickets and full details of the performances are available at sites.google.com