On a Tuesday evening, the eyes of dozens of spectators were fixed on a white sheet hanging in the Gray Gym. Behind the sheet, the cast of “Omi” danced in front of a blue light that cast their shadows towards the audience. Most of the numbers drew positive cheers and roars from the audience, but the cast’s movement section on “Mary Magdalene” by FKA twigs produced silence.
Nestled in high-energy songs featuring fraternity brothers and spiritual ego deaths, “Mary Magdalene”‘s slow electronic beats brought the previously rowdy and energetic crowd to a halt with its dynamic poses and flowing movements. Silence fills the room at the end of the number.
A single “wow” from an audience member finally broke the silence and the performance continued.
“Omi” is a movement piece created and directed by Angel Garcia, a major actor 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 the pronouns they/them, says that growing up as a queer black spiritualist in Texas, they often felt like they couldn’t explore who they were because of the judgment of those around them. Garcia, in turn, gave his cast ample space to bring their own thoughts and ideas into the show.
“The reason I created it was simply to showcase the divinity of every student here at the School of Theater and Dance Arts, and for everyone to showcase their natural gifts and talents,” Garcia said. “Anything that makes their souls fly and their hearts sing – I wanted them to have a chance to do that on stage.”
Many cast members of “Omi” not only signed up to work on one show, they also played roles in another movement piece: “Unspoken.”
Photos of Woody Meyers and Angel Garcia
“Unspoken” is a movement piece directed by Kenyan James Bernard, a senior acting major at UNC. The play 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.
Although the two plays had different stories and themes, according to Bernard, the shows influenced each other.
After being approached by Garcia about their idea for the “Omi” show, Bernard began thinking about what art they could potentially create. After Bernard’s idea for “Unspoken” took hold, the two shows held auditions together and shared a number of cast members. Bernard even acted as a star 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 sanctity with these two shows coming from the same place – always going back to the roots, and I think that’s really what connects them probably the most,” Bernard said.
“Omi” performed at Gray Gymnasium on Monday, February 28. The following night, “Unspoken” performed in the same venue. For Bernard and Garcia, the performance of their shows marks the end of a process that began and ended with their own thoughts, experiences and desire to create.