Theater News

Get Your Ass in the Water and Swim Like Me to Premiere at Performing Garage

Based on a 1976 LP of the same name, the original work exploring the tradition of Toasts will run January 11-February 3.

Eric Berryman in <i>Get Your Ass in the Water and Swim Like Me</i> (© Marika Kent)
Eric Berryman in Get Your Ass in the Water and Swim Like Me
(© Marika Kent)

The Wooster Group will present the premiere of Get Your Ass in the Water and Swim Like Me, an original work of theater that explores a distinctive genre of Black American storytelling called Toasts, which are rhyming epic poems that tell fantastical and bawdy stories about legendary street heroes.

Get Your Ass in the Water and Swim Like Me reunites the core creative team from the Group’s 2017 production The B-Side: “Negro Folklore From Texas State Prisons,” A Record Album Interpretation — performer Eric Berryman, director Kate Valk, production designer Elizabeth LeCompte, and sound designer Eric Sluyter. For this production, the team is joined by musician Jharis Yokley and lighting designer Marika Kent. Performances will take place January 11-February 3 at the Group’s home, the Performing Garage.

The show is based on the 1976 LP Get Your Ass in the Water and Swim Like Me: Narrative Poetry From Black Oral Tradition, continuing the Group’s long practice of using albums both as artifacts and as organizing principles for creating performances. The LP contains a collection of Toasts recorded and edited by folklorist Bruce Jackson and is one of the only archival recordings of the tradition of Toasts, which were staples of urban life for decades, performed by and in groups of men, with each teller introducing his own verbal style and invention.

The show is set in a late-night radio DJ studio where Berryman performs renditions of classic Toasts from the album, contextualizing them with reflections on Black male identity. He is accompanied by Yokley on the drums.

The full team for Get Your Ass in the Water and Swim Like Me includes Irfan Brkovic (video design), Andrew Maillet and Yudam Hyung Seok Jeon (additional video), Michaela Murphy (assistant director), Tavish Miller (technical director), Bona Lee (production manager), Monika Wunderer (general manager),  Maya Davis (associate producer), and Cynthia Hedstrom (producer).

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