A choreopoem is a choreographed series of poems that integrates performance poetry, dance, music, song, live art, and, if you do it Monica's way, parkour, yoga, memes, spells, video clips, sound bytes, and more. The term was coined by Ntozake Shange in 1975, with her choreopoem, For colored girls who have considered suicide / when the rainbow is enuf.
(Rest in Power, Queen Shange. We miss you and thank you for every trail you've blazed.)
The genre focuses on blending different art media on stage to articulate a complex or emotional experience. It shies away from traditional drama narrative, and instead utilizes poetry to highlight separate "rooms" of thought that all relate to a central theme.
Monica teaches WRIT 260: The Choreopoem at Susquehanna University. To request her syllabus:
Monica wrote Confessions in Living Color(ed) in the fall of 2011. With the help of her co-director D'Angelo Smith and her loyal Confessions army, the show premiered at Knox College in April 2012.
This choreopoem focused on the trials of college-aged people of color navigating white spaces, while seeking out the route to living the best life possible. The central theme of this show is finding "space between my heart and my hips," a metaphor for the search for a good life within barriers.
This version was officially retired following Monica's graduation from Knox College in June 2012, but the script is still available at the Seymour Library on campus.
Logo design: Dan Johnson
Monica radically revised Confessions in Living Color(ed) in the summer of 2015, and renamed the show Testify. Thea and Avery Wigglesworth of the CutOut Theatre directed and produced Testify in Brooklyn, NY in December 2015.
Testify addresses current social movements that impact the lives of people of color, including #BlackLivesMatter, #JusticeforMuslims, and #SayHerName. Maintaining the original ensemble, this choreopoem seeks to call for action to destroy stigmas about interracial relationships, love and sexuality, and faith and spirituality.
Logo design: Thea Wigglesworth
For script and performance rights:
Something to Keep Me Vertical was Monica's graduate thesis project in 2014. With her co-director Nick Bearden, the show premiered at Georgia College & State University in February 2015. The show briefly toured at South Georgia State College in April 2015.
Interviews with fifty people in and outside of the United States birthed this choreopoem about millennial love, sex, and relationships. The central theme of this show is "This one is mine," a rallying cry for self-care, sexual liberation, and healthy relationships - with our partner(s), exes, children, and selves.
Logo design: Jimmy Holder
For script and performance rights:
In a country grappling with its bloody history and uncertain future, How to Exterminate the Black Woman illuminates the struggle of the Black woman trying to thrive in a society seeking to consume and erase her. Set after the murder of Sandra Bland, or Trayvon Martin, or Emmett Till, this choreopoem takes place in the collective memory of American Black women, represented by Angela fractured into six emotions: fear, loss, silence, expectation, fury, and new. Through chanted sestinas, yoga-inspired dances, and a chorus of the subconscious, How to Exterminate the Black Woman confronts readers and audiences with the terrors and triumphs that mark Black women in the United States, from burying their murdered children and surviving rape to going natural and falling in love. More than just #BlackGirlMagic, this choreopoem casts a literary spell, demanding empathy, action, and humanity from the stage.
How to Exterminate the Black Woman premiered at Susquehanna University. It also received a staged reading at the Vintage Theater in Denver, CO as part of the International Women's Voices Theatre Festival, directed by Margaret Norwood.
To read about Monica's thoughts about this show, check out her Culture Rant with SFWP here.
Logo/poster design: Kaila Snyder & SU Writers Institute
For script and performance rights, either email firstname.lastname@example.org or click here:
In this radical twenty-first century choreopoem, Dorian, a young American Black man, is tasked by an ancestral spirit to thwart his inevitable murder. He traces his family tree, from his grandmother to his offspring, uncovering secrets of sex work, self-harm, and assault alongside snapshots of #BlackBoyJoy. Guided by The Novelist, an omniscient muse, and her troupe of dancers, Dorian must interrogate his legacy, forgive his past, and reckon with being Black in modern America. He tries on different selves and possible futures in his increasing desperation to experience the luxury of growing old and finding solace despite institutional racism declaring him a threat. Through the poetry, dance, and song of Roadmap, will Dorian overcome the odds or become another hashtag?
Roadmap first premiered at Susquehanna University in April 2019.
Logo/poster design: Jessica Ram & SU Writers Institute
For script and performance rights, contact the Schulman Agency.
Need an example of what a choreopoem can look like? Check out Monica's presentation of her choreopoem, "Vinyāsa," choreographed and performed by Jenny Footle and Auty Rohweder, as part of the launch event for Beautiful Feet Wellness.