On a Tuesday night, the eyes of dozens of audience members fixed on a white sheet suspended in Gray Gym. Behind the sheet, the cast of “Omi” danced in front of a blue light that projected their shadows to the audience. Most numbers elicited positive shouting and hollering from the audience, but the cast’s movement section to “Mary Magdalene” by FKA twigs produced silence.
Nestled within high-energy songs featuring fraternity brothers and spiritual ego-deaths, the slow electronic beats of “Mary Magdalene” brought the previously rowdy and high-energy crowd to a halt with its dynamic posing and flowing movements. Silence filled the room upon the number’s completion.
A single “wow,” from an audience member finally broke the silence and the performance continued.
“Omi” is a movement piece originated and directed by Angel Garcia, a senior acting major at the University of Northern Colorado. The show tells the story of a young woman named Naomi who travels to Hicksville, Alabama, to attend school after having prophetic dreams.
Garcia, who uses they/them pronouns, says that growing up as a queer Black spiritualist in Texas, they often felt like they couldn’t explore who they were due to judgement from those around them. Garcia, in turn, gave their cast ample room to input their own thoughts and ideas into the show.
“The reason I created it was just to showcase the divinity within every student here in the School of Theatre Arts and Dance, and for everyone to be able to showcase their natural gifts and talents,” Garcia said. “Whatever makes their soul fly and their heart sing – I wanted them to have a chance to do that on stage.”
Many of the cast members of “Omi” didn’t only commit to working on one show, they also took on roles in another movement piece: “Unspoken.”
Photos by Woody Meyers and Angel Garcia
“Unspoken” is a movement play directed by Kenyan James Bernard, a senior acting major at UNC. The piece follows a young Black boy named KJ who faces a constant battle between his family’s perceptions of who he is, and his own emotions.
Though the two pieces have different storylines and themes, according to Bernard, the shows influenced each other.
After being approached by Garcia about their idea for the show “Omi,” Bernard began to think about what art they could potentially create. After Bernard’s idea for “Unspoken” had taken root, both shows held auditions together and shared a number of cast members. Bernard even acted as a featured ensemble member in “Omi.” The shows have grown together, and share commonalities that go beyond shared choreography or cast members.
“I think there’s a general like sanctity with both of these shows that comes from the same place – always touching back in with the roots, and I think that’s really what probably connects them the most,” Bernard said.
“Omi” performed in Gray Gymnasium on Monday, February 28th. The following night, “Unspoken” performed in the same venue. For both Bernard and Garcia, the performance of their shows mark the end of a process that originated and ended with their own thoughts, experiences and a desire to create.