JAMES: Earlier this week, I dropped by the AS220 Black Box Theater on Empire Street to see a rehearsal of FUTUREWORLDS 5: Escape from Jollyworld.

CHUCK: What’s that all about?

JAMES: It’s a multi-media, multi-discipline, hip-hop theater production, put on by AS220 Youth. Let’s hear some of the young people involved in the production tell us about it.

PATRICK SOBEN: “So this play kind of revolves around one character whose name is Marley, he’s going through a lot right now. He’s a hot mainstream recording artist who is basically getting himself involved in things that he should not… things that are getting involved in his career. He’s kind of struggling, trying to find his way, find his path as an artist but also stay true to himself. It’s very in-your-face, very upfront. We confront a lot of different issues that people don’t really want to talk about.”

MARLEY MAN: “So the whole story of the play is about a character, Marley Man (that’s me), and everything that he goes through as a rapper on a label called Vulture Records. Pretty much, they’re controlling him. What they use is the codeine, the vape, tobacco products and stuff like that, just to keep him pretty much within character.

NICKY WHITFIELD: “This play is about a young black man who was born and raised in Providence, trying to make a living in the music industry, but is being wrapped up in … kind of just being pulled along on the wrong path of life by doing drugs and thinking that would be his quick way scheme into the rap world.”

ANGELLY PENA: “So the whole thing is, we have we have different teams. We have the visuals, the music, dance. So we’re all doing our part to make this whole project happen.”

JAMES: That was Angelly Pena, she plays Kiki, one of the lead characters in the play. And she mentioned all the different teams of young people working together to make this happen. The production features graphic elements, dance, video and of course original music that you’re hearing right now that they produce in the AS220 studio. I also talked with Anjel Newmann, who is the program director at AS220.

ANJEL NEWMANN: “This piece is part of our FUTUREWORLDS pedagogy. It’s a year-long learning production and it takes over 60-70 people to make it happen. It’s hip-hop centric. It’s Afro-futurist in aesthetic and it really is a reflection of what young people are going through in our city. It is uncensored. It is explicit because that is the life that they are living and we really feel committed to making sure that their voices are heard in an authentic way.”

JAMES: The young people are excited about the play they’re working on and they really value what they get at AS220.

PATRICK SOBEN: “I love the culture. I love the people. I love the positive feedback that you get whenever you perform. You can be an artist, a poet, a singer, a dancer, a writer, a DJ. You get positive love and positive feedback from your own community and I think that’s the best sense of social climate when it comes to being an artist. You want to feel the good energy in the room from your own people. So I love that part about AS220.”

MARLEY MAN: “I just love how the space allows you to be yourself and it also allows you to be creative. There’s no limits when it comes to AS220.”

ANJELLY PENA: “I’ve expanded my skills in dance and like right now I never knew that I could really act. So I’m testing waters.”

ALLAM MELLA: “I just like the environment and how people are completely honest with each other. Because when it comes to art, it’s really important for you to be completely honest. You can’t like lie to somebody and say ‘yeah this is really good’ when it’s not. You have to give constructive criticism to help them become a better artist. And it’s like a second home to me.”

ANJEL NEWMANN: “I think [the youth at AS220] get family. I think they get community. I think they get people holding them accountable. And I think they get a long-lasting relationship and space that’s going to care about them. And I think what I like most is that it’s not just about art. It’s about helping to grow humans and grow the capacity as a community to accept everything that comes through the door and using art as a connector to do that.”

JAMES: That was AS220 program director Anjel Newmann. We also heard from Patrick Soben, Marley Man, Angelly Pena, Nicky Whitfield, and Allam Mella who are all involved in the production. You can see “Escape from JollyWorld” Tonight [Thursday, 8/8/19] and Friday [8/9/19] night at AS220’s Black Box Theater on Empire street in Providence. Ticket info available here.

CHUCK: The Rhode Island International Film Festival is underway this week. It’s running through Sunday night, featuring 320 films from over 35 countries. Festival program director Shawn Quirk says RIIFF is one of just 35 festivals out of 7-thousand worldwide that can qualify a film for OSCAR contention, making it an important stop for any filmmaker. This is RIIFF’s 23rd year. Quirk says it started in Woonsocket, at the Stadium Theatre, making a big splash early, and giving the festival a distinctive flavor: 

SHAWN QUIRK: “We had the world premiere of Something About Mary, in our 2nd year, and from that big beginning we’ve really become a global festival, that serves as a gateway for Canadian cinema as well. We’re one of the closest major festivals to Quebec that’s in America, so taking advantage of that geographic closeness that we have with Quebec, we do serve as a real break-out festival for a lot of French-Canadian filmmakers. And that builds on our legacy with Woonsocket and the French-speaking community we have right here in RI, that’s still very lively in terms of its legacy.”

CHUCK: An online guide to the festival’s show times, venues and events is at film-festival.org

JAMES: There are two different art tours going on this weekend. There’s the Art Drive, a juried studio tour through the southcoast area. 30 working artists in Westport and Dartmouth will be showcasing their work in various locations across a 15 mile area. That’s Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

There’s also the Jamestown Open Studio Tour on Saturday. 20 artists in 14 different locations around Jamestown Rhode Island. One of the artists is Peter Diepenbrock, you’ve probably seen his clock man on the Promenade building if you drive on I-95 through Providence, but he also makes these beautiful steel sculptures with sweeping organic forms that are somewhere between Frank Gehry and Henry Moore. Definitely worth checking out.

We want to hear your suggestions for events we can feature on Artscape, email arts@thepublicsradio.org or fill out our simple form.