Brown Arts Institute

Community Members Selected to Appear with Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company in Unflinching New Performance Examining Race and Belonging

FirstWorks and Brown Arts Institute co-present ambitious artist residency exploring the themes two-time Tony winner’s newest performance “What Problem?”

Providence, RI—FirstWorks, a Providence-based nonprofit dedicated to connecting art with audiences, and Brown Arts Institute at Brown University, a new university-wide research enterprise and catalyst for the arts at Brown, announced community participants and public engagement events surrounding an artist residency with two-time Tony-Award winning director, choreographer, and dancer Bill T. Jones. The co-presented residency culminates in a performance of Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company’s “What Problem?” at The VETS on Friday, November 4, 2022. More information and tickets to the performance are available at firstworks.org and arts.brown.edu

For four decades, the groundbreaking Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company has revolutionized modern dance while exploring issues of identity. Jones’ unflinching new work, “What Problem?” evokes the tension between belonging to a community and feelings of isolation that many people feel in these divisive political times.

Jones conceived of this highly personal new work in pursuit of the elusive “we.” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech and Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick” serve as the basis for spoken text that Jones delivers on stage. Through dance, spoken word and deep community collaboration, Jones reflects on King’s immortal words, “we shall overcome,” mixed with the scripture of our democracy as formed and shaped by WE THE PEOPLE.

In the Providence performance, Jones will be featured alongside his 10-member company, four vocalists, and 26 local community members who were engaged in equal partnership by FirstWorks and Brown Arts Institute. Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company develops content with local community members in each touring location for “What Problem?,” resulting in performances specific to the host city. 

The Providence community participants range in age from high school students to over 70 years old and represent the diverse arts talent of the Creative Capital. Selected participants include: Alexa Barriga, Lisa Biggs, Mark Binder, Kira Kelly Clarke, Abby Cohen, Assitan ‘Sita’ Coulibaly, Lafayette Cruise, Freeman T. Freeman, Leah Grant, Satta Jalla, Aisha Jandosova, Christopher Johnson, Amy Joseph, Brenda Maria, Rosey Ok, Sophia Fern Pray, Tia-Alexi Roberts, Alison C. Rollins, Siraj Sindhu, Linda Spencer, Katrina Theth, Michelle Struckholz, Shaffany Piaget Terrell and Jada Lynn Wooten, with more to be announced.

Residency events will take place in late October and early November on Brown University campus, at The VETS and in area schools partnering with FirstWorks’ Education program. 

BILL T. JONES/ARNIE ZANE COMPANY RESIDENCY SCHEDULE 
Friday, November 4 at 7:30 p.m. at The VETS: “What Problem” performance. Tickets range from $24-79 and are available for purchase at firstworks.org and arts.brown.edu, or by calling 401-421-ARTS (2787). 

Sunday, November 5 at 11:00 a.m. at Brown Arts Institute, Granoff Center at Brown University’s Martinos Auditorium: Town Hall Conversation and Brunch with Bill T. Jones and Janet Wong, Associate Artistic Director of Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company. Free reservations will be available at firstworks.org

On-demand: FirstWorks and Brown Arts Institute will co-host a Creative Conversation exploring the humanist themes of “What Problem?” Facilitated by Avery Willis Hoffman; Artistic Director of the Brown Arts Institute and Kathleen Pletcher, Executive Artistic Director of FirstWorks; panelists include David Henry, former Bill T. Jones Director of Performing Arts at the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston and co-founder of Motion State Arts; Stéphanie Larrieux, Associate Director of the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America at Brown University, and other leading Brown University scholars. The talk will be released for on-demand viewing on firstworks.org and arts.brown.edu in late October. 

The Company will also conduct master classes, lecture/demonstrations and workshops for Brown University students and high school students from Pawtucket and Providence. Teachers and administrators may inquire about FirstWorks’ education programs by contacting Jamil Jorge, FirstWorks Education Director at jjorge@firstworks.org

Additional details are available at firstworks.org and arts.brown.edu

About Bill T. Jones 
BILL T. JONES (Artistic Director/Co-Founder/Choreographer: Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company; Artistic Director: New York Live Arts) is a multi-talented artist, choreographer, dancer, theater director and writer, and Associate Artist for the 2020 Holland Festival. Most recently in 2022, he was awarded a second Lucille Lortel Award for his choreography for Black No More. Bill has been nominated for the 2022 Tony Awards for his work on Paradise Square. Mr. Jones has received major honors including the Human Rights Campaign’s 2016 Visibility Award, 2013 National Medal of Arts to a 1994 MacArthur “Genius” Award and Kennedy Center Honors in 2010. Mr. Jones was honored with the 2014 Doris Duke Performing Artist Award, recognized as Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government in 2010, inducted into the American Academy of Arts & Sciences in 2009 and named “An Irreplaceable Dance Treasure” by the Dance Heritage Coalition in 2000. His ventures into Broadway theater resulted in a 2010 Tony Award for Best Choreography in the critically acclaimed FELA!, the new musical co-conceived, co-written, directed and choreographed by Mr. Jones. He also earned a 2007 Tony Award for Best Choreography in Spring Awakening as well as an Obie Award for the show’s 2006 off-Broadway run. His choreography for the off-Broadway production of The Seven earned him a 2006 Lucille Lortel Award. 

About the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company 
Over the past 40 years the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company has shaped the evolution of contemporary dance through the creation and performance of over 140 works. Founded as a multicultural dance company in 1982, the company was born of an 11-year artistic collaboration between Bill T. Jones and Arnie Zane. Today, the company is recognized as one of the most innovative and powerful forces in the modern dance world. The company has performed its ever-enlarging repertoire worldwide in over 200 cities in 40 countries on every major continent. In 2011, the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company merged with Dance Theater Workshop to form New York Live Arts of which Bill T. Jones is the Artistic Director and Janet Wong is the Associate Artistic Director.  

About FirstWorks
 
FirstWorks is a non-profit based in Providence, Rhode Island whose purpose is to build the cultural, educational and economic vitality of its community by engaging diverse audiences with world-class performing arts and education programs. Since 2004, FirstWorks festivals, performances and programs have attracted more than 700,000 participants. Central to FirstWorks’ mission is creating access to the arts and connecting the community with significant creators of our time such as Yo-Yo Ma, Urban Bush Women, Kronos Quartet and scores of local performers. FirstWorks’ education program harnesses the power of the arts and experiential learning to help over 2,000 youth annually succeed in school, life and work. Embracing collaboration, FirstWorks has fostered over 90 community partnerships across business, social service, government, arts and education sectors. As the founding partner of PVDFest, FirstWorks collaborates with the City of Providence to curate and produce the City’s free signature arts celebration, which has employed over 4,000 local luminary artists since its inception. Visit firstworks.org to learn more. 

About Brown Arts Institute 
The Brown Arts Institute (BAI) at Brown University seeks to cultivate creative expression and foster an interdisciplinary environment where faculty and students learn from one another and from artists and scholars in a wide range of fields across the campus and around the world. The BAI works collaboratively to enhance curricular and co-curricular offerings, directly engage students with prominent artists working in all genres and media, and supports a diverse program of concerts, performances, exhibitions, screenings, lectures, and symposia each year. The BAI builds upon Brown’s reputation as a destination for arts exploration, contributing to cultural enterprise through the integration of theory, practice, and scholarship with an emphasis on innovation and discovery that results from rigorous artmaking and experimentation. 

Listings Information:  
WHO: Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company  
WHAT: “What Problem?” dance performance 
WHEN: Friday, November 4, 2022 at 7:30 PM 
WHERE: The VETS, 1 Ave of the Arts, Providence, RI 
TICKETS: $24-79 (incl. $4 restoration fee) firstworks.org or call 401-421-ARTS (2787) 

WHO: Choreographer, dancer and director Bill T. Jones and Janet Wong, Associate Artistic Director of Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company 
WHAT: Town Hall Conversation and Brunch 
WHEN: Saturday, November 5, 11:00 AM 
WHERE: Granoff Center for the Creative Arts at Brown University, Martinos Auditorium 
HOW: Free reservations at firstworks.org