News & Articles

The music in the ...Miz Martha rehearsal room

Whitney White on her playlist 

Miz Martha
is a spectacularly physical piece that calls on many different types of physical theatre. From full on dance breaks, to ensemble-based movement that transports us from one place to another, playwright James Ijames really calls upon the ensemble to live in their bodies. 

Often in my rehearsal processes, I’ll land on a sound or vibe for the play that helps me choreograph and stage. It’s basically a list of music that the piece brings to mind directly or indirectly. This can be music that comes up when discussed with the cast, and references or genres that are in the script.

With this musical piece, it didn’t take us long to start building a list. Because the slaves utilize any tool necessary to break through to Martha, the breadth of all black music from slavery to now was on the table.  

We loved a lot of 2000s hip hop because it got us moving fast, which can be seen in tracks like “Hey Ya” by Outkast and those by Ying Yang Twins. At the same time, more cerebral and intellectual black music like Robert Glasper and Childish Gambino equally spoke to us. Then you have something like the Prison Songs record, which helped me generate movement for “Who Lays Da Wood.” So all this music would basically move us from a place of warming up, to a place of generating choreography and character-based movement.

Lastly, I always like to throw in something tangential that might feel tonally on for the piece. For this production it was Deerhunter, because I find their music so easeful, freeing, childlike and open. There are many times in the piece in which we witness these black bodies just existing, or trying to figure out how to exist, when their freedom hangs in the balance. The Deerhunter helped us tap into that liminal space.

Please note that songs marked “Explicit” may not be appropriate for all listeners.