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Monday | 7 p.m.

October 3, 2022

Pay What You Decide – a social experiment in which we ask you to value your artistic experience.

Kelley Theatre

Experience a staged reading with acclaimed hip-hop poet and playwright, Aaron Jafferis, as he works on his latest piece, Smooth Criminal. The audience is invited to attend the staged reading and then engage in a conversation with the artists about the work.

Smooth Criminal is an interactive hip-hop play about a nerdy white guy desperate to liberate his people – as soon as he can figure out who they are. Three friends try to undo Aaron’s family's twisted relationship with race and money, but his family has other plans.

When Aaron and his partner decide their newborn baby’s name should connect them to their COVID-distanced family, Aaron's torn: does this mean his dad’s blue-collar family, his mom’s silver-spoon one, or their Black and brown chosen family? Aaron sets out to write a play to sew together his families – and himself – but the Black actors playing his white parents ask why they’re only paid with rhyming haiku thank you notes, and his parents want him to write this play after they’re dead. To figure out what his baby should inherit, Aaron realizes he must follow the money – and the white race – to its source, and excavate the buried stories of all three halves of his family.

Based on the playwright’s almost-entirely-true-but-don’t-fact-check-with-his-parents life story, Smooth Criminal bumps and grinds his race and class issues with the audience’s, using creative and conversational prompts built into the show to ask us all: what's the bravest thing you can do to undo inequity?

Artist Bio

Aaron Jafferis is a hip-hop poet and playwright whose musicals The Ones, Trigger, (Be)longing, Stuck Elevator, How to Break, Kingdom, Shakespeare: The Remix, and No Lie have been produced or presented by The Old Globe, American Conservatory Theater, Long Wharf Theatre, Collective Consciousness, Bregamos, and many others. Honors include a Creative Capital Award, Richard Rodgers Award, Sundance Institute/Time Warner Fellowship, NEA Art Works Grant, NEFA National Theatre Project Grant, San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle Award, Edgerton Foundation New American Play Award, and multiple MacDowell Fellowships.

Upcoming productions include the opera world premiere of Stuck Elevator at Nashville Opera (January 2023), and the world premiere musical How to Break at the Village Theatre in Seattle (Spring 2023). Projects in development include Tell, with co-author Antonio Fernandez and director Chay Yew, commissioned by Long Wharf Theatre; Smooth Criminal – recipient of the 2020 Bitsie Award, 2021 CT Artists Respond Grant, and 2022 New England Foundation for the Arts grant; and Activist Songbook – a collection of new songs and raps for activists to use in movement-building, created in collaboration with composer Byron Au Yong and Asian American organizers nationwide.

A former Open Rap Slam champion at the National Poetry Slam Championships, Aaron is the founding artistic director of The Word youth poetry program in New Haven, which supports young people using hip-hop and spoken word as engines for justice and liberation.

Awards

Smooth Criminal, while still in development, is the recipient of the 2020 Bitsie Clark Fund for Artists Award, a 2021 CT Artists Respond Grant, and a 2022 New England Foundation for the Arts New Work New England Grant.

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Wednesday, October 19 – Saturday, October 22 | 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, October 22 | 2 p.m.