What are your names and where are you from?
Amy: My name is Amy Leon and I am from Harlem, New York City.
Tonya: My name is Tonya Ingram and I am from the Bronx, New York.
Candace: My name is Candace and I’m from Queens, New York. Three Boroughs!
Amy: Holla at me!
Candace: Harlem is a borough-
Amy: It is now.
What project are you working on while you’re here at SPACE?
Amy: We’re working on a play I started writing called ‘Vaseline.’ It’s analyzing the intricacies of black women in their plight, in their search for joy, and just the everyday. Because we’re people. And I feel like a lot of the representations of black women in the media, are either written by people who are not black women. Or it almost feels like there’s an agenda, to keep us in this very specific role of mourning. Beauty isn’t really in the conversation, you know? They’ll cast Nina Simone as a light skinned woman, constantly putting us in conjunction with one another rather than allow us to thrive as a community. So I just want to see how I can shift that. This week has been just a lot of research with these beautiful women. In conversation, and reading some poems I’d written, some songs.
How did you decide that this was the piece you wanted to write? That this was a play, not a poem or a song.
Amy: Well I studied theatre for four years, and I was in an acting company all through high school. And then when I graduated I started going out for these roles that felt super offensive to me. And I was always auditioning for the role of young single mother, or girl who just lost her brother, or some kind of suffering and I was just like fuck this. If this is really what’s going to be going down I’d rather write my own perspective. And yes my life has been tumultuous but at least I know that I am the person in control of telling my own story. I’m not constantly going into a room full of three white casting directors who are waiting for me to break down. It felt really unhealthy, so I stopped doing theatre and I did music. And poetry, and I still had a stage, it was still mine for an hour, it was whatever I wanted to do. And it’s still that way and I love that. I’ve had a really good time sharing my perspective and my life with people in that context. But then I got pretty frustrated I couldn’t celebrate something I’d spent so much time learning how to do. And I was like well, I’ve been taking up all this space as a musician and a poet, pretty successfully. I can probably go conquer this theatre space if I just write my own work. Rather than waiting for somebody to write my dream role. I might as well do it my damn self. But I don’t think I’m ready to write a conventional play. I thought why can’t I just take all of the things I’m using right now to create something and put it in this theatre space. Yeah so that’s what happened and then I just thought of some women, Tonya and Candace, they inspire me a lot in their individual practices. Which are two that I do separately as well. I’m a musician and a poet, so inviting people who specialize in each one specifically was exciting for me as a person who’s dabbling in all these different worlds, to be with people who focus. So that this piece can come from a more focused place.
How did you decide that these women were going to be your collaborators? How did you two get involved?
Amy: Um...I texted them! I said Tonya what’re you doin? I said Candace what’re you doin? Because I really didn’t expect to work on this piece so soon. I just came back from being on tour about a week ago. And I was on tour for four months. I just kept having this dream of writing this thing this summer. But it’s kind of nice that we got this residency right away. So it was very early developmental stages. And I thought these are the people I would like to see the beginnings of musically and poetically. How does this sound in your voice as a different human being? Before I write for other women, I wanted to tackle the things that I don’t like in other people’s writing. That they’re writing for me without me in mind. So I don’t want to pretend that I am every black woman. I come from a very specific experience, so I wanted to be in conversation. And these are two women that I trust and would want to be in conversation with. Getting to know Candace more has been really special. And I know Tonya, but we are having conversations that we don’t have. When you’re friends with people you don’t ask “so what is your relationship to the sun?” I mean we get deep, but we’re not like “yo what’s your relationship with water?” Things that I’m interested in, that I ask myself.
Where have you guys spent the most time working while here at SPACE?
Amy: The lake.
Candace: The lake!
Amy: The lake has been a very kind-
Candace: Sacred space.
Tonya: Also terrifying.
Candace: Which also intertwines with its sacredness.
Tonya: Like any body of water, the unknown parts of it are very interesting to explore.
Amy: There and in the barn.
Candace: I worked in the Yurt, on some individual work. It was beautiful, to be covered yet surrounded by greenery. And I think Emily said oh yeah we just put that up a week ago. So I’m really excited that it was there for us. We did some stuff last night in the gazebo. We walked through the garden. What else have we done?
Candace: The hammock is the best.
Amy: And the deck of Kay Hall is really nice, so much sun.
Candace: Yeah why didn’t they put us in Kay Hall?
Candace: Our house is haunted. No I’m kidding.
Amy: No we have been working with some spirits as well! It’s been spiritual, there’s been a lot of spiritual things going down. That we are very in tune with and have been talking a lot about. It’s interesting. There’s history here, and we’re curious about what’s gone down here. We love the horses.
Candace: We fed them carrots. And when I say we, I mean Amy and Tonya. Because I was scared.
Amy: And we watched the sunrise the other day in the rain and it was just us. And Kim. And she came later and it was really majestic, because we were all three of us, like “okay it’s 4:45 let’s go,” just exhausted, running to go see the sunrise. And then we get there and we’re there for ten minutes and Kim comes. So it’s this crazy moment of, oh my goodness you were gonna come the whole time, by yourself. So it was just nice to be in community there. That was really special to us. The lake was really special to us.
So what’s next for you and this project? Where do you see it going?
Amy: Well, I got a lot of information so far, this week. That I didn’t expect to have answers to. So I want to spend a lot of time writing and solidifying some of my ideas. Some huge questions were answered, in terms of form and how I can portray exactly what I mean with the authenticity that I’m looking for. But a lot of things have been answered. I have a few theatres in London who are interested. In just the idea, which is crazy. I feel a lot of trust lately, from people supporting my work and my ideas. I think it’s because it’s something that’s necessary. But I also want to get my home town, you know, on my side. I’ve been on tour in London for four months, so they got to see a lot of my work and the trust was there. So I want to start building some more trustful relationships here in the city. Probably a few viewings. I don’t think I’ll be in a place to put the show up for another year maybe. Because we’re all busy, and I’ll be really busy with music and other things. But yeah the writing phase is going to go heavy this summer, and then probably an introduction viewing so I can get some feedback, in the fall.
If you were reincarnated as an animal on this farm who would you be and why?
Amy: I be thinkin about the afterlife so I’m gonna take a second.
Candace: I think I’d just want to be a tree. Or a flower.
Candace: I’m not specific about it. All I know is that I feel most connected to plants because their only responsibility really is to grow toward the sun. And I think all of the time how it’s a humble reminder that while we are living these busy ass lives that are filled with pain, gratefulness, happiness and joy, the human aspect of our lives is happening while here in Brewster there’s a field of plants where all they know is growth. It’s super humbling to think that this all exists beyond city life. I would achieve so much freedom if all I had to do was grow and keep evolving, blooming, blossoming and then dying.
Amy: I think that can be translated to human life. Caring about your growth and just growing. Yeah I would probably be a bird so I could see the vast expanse of everything. Enjoy the water and everyone else. I’ve always been interested in flying and I’d like to see all this from an aerial view. They get to be around people all the time too but they also have the freedom to leave. They have way more freedom.
Tonya: I would be a horse. I connected with them a lot. Even if they were snotting on my hand, or one licked my ear. The other day, I was coming from the lake and I was pretty sad about something and I went to just stand by the horses. And they just kind of came to me. They were just there standing in front of me, I thought that was very special. So yeah a horse, they have all that open space, they have great hair.