Reconstructing (Still Working but the Devil Might Be Inside)

What is Reconstructing (Still Working But The Devil Might Be Inside)?

Reconstructing (Still Working But The Devil Might Be Inside), a new piece of theater created by the TEAM’s largest writing collective to date, follows an intentional collaboration between 14 artists of Color and 7 white artists as they try to move through American history together in the aftermath of slavery.  Those artists are Brenda Abbandandolo, Denée Benton, Eric Berryman, Vinie Burrows, Eisa Davis, André De Shields, JJJJJerome Ellis, Katherine Freer, Jill Frutkin, Amber Gray, Modesto “Flako” Jimenez, Marika Kent, Libby King, Ian Lassiter, James Harrison Monaco, Jeremy O’Harris, Kristen Sieh, Nick Vaughan, Gogo Yemah (Jillian Walker, Process Director), Jhanaë Bonnick (Production Stage Manager), Milta Vega-Cardona (Process Chaplain),  Zhailon Levingston and Artistic Director Rachel Chavkin (Co-Directors).

A More Detailed “About”

Onstage is a 2-story house. From one angle, it’s mucked out after a flood. From another, it’s a new development wrapped in Tyvek. From another, it’s Gone with the Wind’s “Tara” being transformed into an AirBnb. Sometimes it looks like it’s on fire. Performers and audience weave in and around the house, the setting and landscape for Reconstructing (Still Working but the Devil Might Be Inside).  

Helmed by the TEAM’s biggest writing collective yet (21 artists, aged 28-98, 14 of whom are artists of Color and 7 of whom are white-identifying), Reconstructing is a new work that explores intimacy between Black-, POC- and white-identifying Americans and seeks, meta-theatrically, to answer the question of how, in the aftermath of slavery, we might “move through history together.” (Artist Eric Berryman). It has a double-helix structure: one strand, the primary scaffolding, is a transcript-based play that tells the story of our creative process; the other strand, weaving in and around the first, is a collage of movement, music, and poetic, character-based scenes. Formally, we think it might feel like a dance, or like Alice Childress’ Trouble in Mind, Anne Washburn’s 10 out of 12, or even Noises Off.

The piece slips between fact and fiction, performance and ritual, process and product, as our artist selves co-exist with historical figures like William Byrd (considered “founder” of Richmond, VA, an enslaver and astonishing diarist) or fictional characters like Professor Lowe (a college professor studying the correlations between astrology and Black uprisings). It’s about characters seeking and fleeing intimacy and about us as makers doing the same.

Partner Organizations & Audiences

Our longtime organizational partners include Round House Theatre, The Broad Stage, Carolina Performing Arts at UNC Chapel Hill, ArtsEmerson, The Hopkins Center for the Arts at Dartmouth College, and Brooklyn Academy of Music.

Audience development and creative development are inextricably linked in the making of Reconstructing. With our partner orgs, we are working to thoughtfully and steadily cultivate a racially-diverse, locally-representative audience, with a particular focus on meaningful representation of Black-identifying audience members at every performance.  We are in the process of nurturing durational relationships between our artists and our partner orgs’ audiences so that our work and their engagement with it is hyper-local.  Our intention is to share Reconstructing in New York and across the country—and make it as “useful” to audiences as the process has been to us as a collective.

RECONSTRUCTING was commissioned by Round House Theatre in Bethesda, Maryland; Ryan Rilette, Artistic Director, Ed Zakreski, Managing Director.

RECONSTRUCTING received substantial development support from, and in-progress performances were presented by LUMBERYARD Center for Film and Performing Arts. Reconstructing was also developed with support from The Hopkins Center for the Arts at Dartmouth College and Carolina Performing Arts at UNC Chapel Hill, through their Southern Futures Project. 

Reconstructing (Still Working but the Devil Might Be Inside) has received support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and has received public funds from the National Endowment of the Arts, and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with City Council. Reconstructing has also received support from the New England Foundation for the Arts and the Axe-Houghton Foundation, and film production support has been provided by Mighty Lucky Studios.

Special thanks to Khalil Abdullah, Beau and Rachel Alluli, Jessica Almasy, David Dower, Johanna Evans, Dr. Frances Forrest and the American Museum of Natural History, Deborah King, LUMBERYARD’s “Fresh Start” Program, Culture Mill, The Hancher at U of Iowa, and Neil Mazzella and Hudson Scenic. 

photos by Alon Koppel Photography, LUMBERYARD Center for Film and the Performing Arts; August 2019