By James Scruggs
Premiering, and produced by 3LD Art & Technology Center, NYC.
3/FIFTHS is a comprehensive theatrical exploration of root causes and continued violence perpetrated against men of color, and America’s fascination with the virtual weaponization of black skin.
3/FIFTHS recognizes, and explores the fact that the trauma of hundreds of years of racist carnage has been passed down to direct descendents of those enslaved.
Measurable biological traumas of past atrocities are literally ‘cursing’ through the blood of living African Americans.
All too often, the mere proximity of a black man can incite enough fear in an officer of the law that judgment gets skewed and charge toward violent, deadly outcomes.
The work will incorporate radical interactivity, large scale video, performance, text, and music to trace the brutality from America’s original sin (slavery), to the latest unarmed black man killed due to heavily armed policemen fearing for their lives.. 3/FIFTHS , is informed and inspired by my past work, Disposable Men. In 2005 when I created Disposable Men I explored the frightfully disturbing phenomenon of unarmed black men being feared and killed by policemen. I fully expected it to dissipate. Instead, the killings of unarmed black men have grown to epic proportions. I feel compelled to revisit this unfortunately familiar phenomenon.
Inside three theatrical spaces of 3LD Art & Technology center we will create a dystopian theme park complex called SupremacyLand, an institution devoted to the preservation and celebration of white privilege and supremacy. It will consist of an Atrocity Carnival, a Cabaret, and a Private Prison
THE PRESHOW: Representing the private prison, a life size 6’ x 9’ prison cell will be built and visible through the street level floor to ceiling windows of 3LD Art & Technology Center. The space will be inhabited by a durational artist “performing incarceration” 24/7, free to the public passing by. The walls of his cell will be projection surfaces, activated periodically, giving the viewer a window into his mind. Like a museum exhibit, there will be video projection on the window giving the viewer information about the prisoner, how many black men are in prison today, how often a black man becomes imprisoned, and what are the odds of prison being in the future of black men vs white men. Paying audience members as well as just people passing by can communicate with the imprisoned man via a text through a cell phone he has smuggled into his cell.
THE BOX OFFICE: Audience members are tasked with choosing a race at the door either black or white; anyone can choose either race. Audience members choosing ‘other’ face the same fate and lack of privilege as black people in SupremacyLand. They are then given some SupremacyLand dollars and instructed to use them however they like.
ACT 1: THE ATROCITY CARNIVAL: In SupremacyLand historical and contemporary atrocities perpetrated upon black men are transformed, elevated, and celebrated, as fun, radically interactive games, contests and experiences. The audience is encouraged to take pics and videos. The Noose Making Booth is where audience members learn how to make an authentic noose, then learn to make it fast, to win Supremacy dollars usable for beer and snacks. The Trans Race Empathy Booth is where audience members confront an alternate history of themselves as another race. They put on headphones and listen to an elaborate, story/experience from the POV of another race. While listening they will receive a shoulder massage from a person of opposite race, virtually depositing the story into their body, giving them a muscle memory. There will be several more booths that will change unexpectedly into other booths giving the audience many fun options. Time stops in the Atrocity Carnival when the reverse middle passage moment occurs. 3/FIFTHS honors the millions of Africans who died in the transatlantic crossing with an elaborate ritual.
Act 2: The Cabaret: SupremacyLand is a post-prison, prison and The Cabaret is where entertaining re-enactments of incidents of white supremacy are performed daily. A recently decarcerated ex felon enters and disrupts the finely tuned machine, resisting authority and finally escaping and leaving those remaining with tools to survive the toxic environment.
James Scruggs is a writer, performer and arts administrator, creates large scale, multi-media, topical theatrical work usually focusing on race, and gender politics.
He has received several grants and was recently awarded a 2016 NJSCA Fellowship for artistic excellence, a 2016 Creative Capital Grant and a 2015 MAP Grant to write and produce a piece, 3/Fifths, which will be performed by a large cast in two spaces at 3LD Art & Technology Center, NYC in 2017. It explores racism and mass incarceration. In 2005, when the phenomenon of unarmed black men being killed by policeman began rising, Scruggs wrote, performed, and was video designer for Disposable Men produced by HERE Arts Center, NYC. It was his solo work that examined the uncanny similarities that Hollywood monsters and African American men share; the unfounded fear of, and the creative ways they are killed. Disposable Men went on to be presented in Philadelphia, Boston, and Atlanta. He decided to use DM as a seed for 3/5 which will be an up close radically interactive investigation of the historic whorl African Americans are caught up in: the historical slavery-emancipation-black codes loop to the more contemporary incarceration-decarceration- felon box loop.
He has gained valuable experience making ambitious experi- mental theatrical work at 3LD Art & Technology Center. Deepest Man, a work he wrote and produced in 2014 exploring free-diving as a cure for grief, used a 40' Holographic Projection Surface, allowing underwater images to appear to float in front of the actors. He is currently a curator and Associate Artistic Director at 3LD and works freelance at The Field, NYC as a facilitator for peer to peer critical feedback workshops for artists. Scruggs has a BFA in Film from SVA in NYC, and was also the recipient of a Franklyn Furnace Grant, an Edith Lutyens and Norman Bel Geddes Design Enhancement Grant, and an Innovative Theater Award for Outstanding Solo Performance for Disposable Men.
3LD Art & Technology Center
3-Legged Dog is a community-oriented and artist-run production development studio for emerging and established artists and organizations that create large-scale experimental artworks of all kinds. From our home 3LD Art & Technology Center in Lower Manhattan, 3LD has built an unrivaled talent magnet, drawing artists from around the globe to New York to create large-scale, immersive and technology-driven projects in New York City. Since opening in 2006, we have hosted thousands of artists through our 3LD Residency Program, offering a unique experience with 24/7 access to specialized equipment, flexible space and expert knowledge, as well as the desperately needed time to fully realize their visions.
3-Legged Dog exists to produce new, original works in theater, performance, media and hybrid forms. Working out of a strong literary tradition, our mission is to explore the new narrative possibilities created by digital technology, and to provide an environment for our artists to create new tools and modes of expression so that they can excel across a range of disciplines.
3/FIFTHS is a theatrical conversation about race and racism taking place in the dystopian theme park... SupremacyLand
Written by James Scruggs • At 3LD Art & Technology Center • Spring 2017