An Evening with Mantis From Atlantis is a new show exploring identity and our world told from outer space. You can catch it here as part of SPRINT Festival on 7-8 Mar. Click here for more details.
In this blog post, Nina Bowers discusses the creative process behind the show and what inspired her.
A space odyssey of self discovery by Nina Bowers
I have always struggled with the idea that artists should write about what they know. I’ve never wanted to put my experience on stage yet I always felt that it was somehow what was required of me to be a real theatre maker. Like where’s my confessional,funny, autobiographical fringe show about being a queer-black-mixed race-british-canadian-
I recently was working on an RnD , we were doing quick fire writing tasks. The director would set the timer to give us a subject and we would be free to write whatever came into our heads. One of the prompts was to write about our twelve year old selves, I wrote that at 12 my life was coated in a fantasy gloss. The reaction to this statement when we read out our pieces was one of surprise. ‘ I don’t think I’ve ever met a happy 12 year old’ was the response of the director.
When I described my 12 year old self as living in a fantasy gloss I didn’t mean that everything in my life was perfect age 12, or that I was always happy! I was dealing with the dawn of body odors and mood swings like everyone else. But I had created for myself a kind of cocoon of imagination. I had spun myself a second skin out of technicolor musicals and motown songs which provided a layer of protection. I think this was very much a reaction to feeling like a weirdo where I was, tall mixed-race and out of place.Instead of buying a hair straightener and a pair of skinny jeans I went in the opposite direction (resulting in many poor fashion choices and bad hair days). I was 100% away with the fairies and with the fairies I was allowed to be myself.
This continued as I moved into teenagehood, I made some foundational discoveries in high school, the first of which was Janelle Monae’s album The Archandroid. That album opened a part of me I didn’t know I had. Here was a black woman in a suit singing about robots and space. By talking about things that were out of this world she was creating a world around her. I felt represented. From Janelle Monae I found Erykah Badu and the galaxy of neo-soul which lead me to the supernova that is George Clinton and Parliament -Funkadelic. I found myself immersed in music that was experimental, unapologetic and unconfined by ideas of how to be. These artists allowed me to lift my gaze beyond the horizon of my body and create freely. I think that’s the gift of Afro-futurism, it allows you to imagine yourself in a new way. It taught me you can make things that are completely FROM yourself without it being directly ABOUT yourself.
It is from this place that An Evening With:The Mantis From Atlantis is born. It’s a show about identity and our world told from outer space.