“Living in the aftermath of 9/11, I feel an urgent and renewed engagement with what it means to be an American. But that engagement is a troubling one because of a longstanding estrangement between American civic ideals and American civic practice. This project is my response to this reality. I take it as a civic responsibility to think about these things out loud, in the ritualized forum of theater and public dialogue.” —Sekou Sundiata
Poet/theater artist and musician Sekou Sundiata (blessing the boats, Udu) along with a dozen musicians, singers, and spoken-word artists returns to the Walker to develop his latest work—a candid contemplation of America’s national identity and its guiding mythologies. Uniting art and civic dialogue through song cycles, poems, monologues, and moving images, the 51st (dream) state ponders America’s definition of itself in an era of unprecedented global power and asks what it means to be both a citizen and an individual in our complex society. The work features next-generation jazz artists—led by guitarist Marvin Sewell (Jason Moran)—and new music composed by Ani DiFranco, Graham Haynes, and others. A Q&A with the artists follows each performance.