October 29, 2013 | Review Period

A New Play, with Rapping in Chichewa

From a theater company named for the number of languages (167!) spoken in the Queens neighborhood of its founding.

Are you looking for something new in the world of theater? Philosophically opposed to shelling out a hundred bucks to see a mentally unstimulating Broadway show?

The Theater of Language

The Theater of Language

Well, a few years ago I mentioned in this blog a play called 167 Tongues, which celebrates the linguistic diversity of the Jackson Heights neighborhood of Queens. I saw it with my husband and quite enjoyed it.

Since then Theatre 167 has continued to put on original work exploring diverse cultures. I just learned that they have a new play, Pirira, which I will mention for you locals looking to chase down some language-y theater.

The play includes Chichewa—the national language of Malawi—which is not something you can easily find on stage just any old day. The director, Ari Laura Kreith, tells me it has “some wonderful text in Chichewa and beautiful Chichewa-English translation moments.” There’s even a character who raps in Chichewa! (Read about it in Rap Genius.)

Here is a brief plot synopsis (from the Theater 167 website): “July 20, 2011. As the African nation of Malawi erupts in riots around them, American aid workers Jack and Ericka take shelter in the storeroom of a struggling NGO. Half a world away, Malawian student Gilbert and his gay co-worker Chad begin another day in the back room of a Manhattan florist. By the day’s end they discover their lives are inextricably linked across continents, language and time.”

Pirira runs through November 10th at the Chain Theatre in Long Island City. In case you don’t know where Long Island City is, I can assure you that it is extremely close to Manhattan, and not in Long Island at all—just a mere hop over the East River into Queens.

I don’t know that my schedule will permit me to attend this one, but I am getting more and more fascinated by the idea of studying African languages, so I am tempted.

Post a Comment