Art as Social Responsibility: A profile on the crafters of House of Dinah Nov 30, 2016
by Imani Sims
Over the years, I’ve asked artists, producers, and directors their stance on art as social responsibility. Not one has put it as plainly as Jerome A. Parker, mastermind behind House of Dinah. On a rainy Seattle Saturday, I sat down to converse with Jerome regarding his take on the project and how it acts as a catalyst for exposing Northwest audiences to marginalized stories.
House of Dinah situates itself on the crux of purpose and pain. Set to the music of Dinah Washington, Jerome paints a world where intergenerational Queens come together in an effort to heal and “pass the torch.” The complicated nature of the younger queens under the training of the elders is highlighted as a way for the audience to observe the way underground traditions and coming of age stories take place in communities like these. All too often, mainstream stories lack a POC narrative and the narrative of Queer folks who live within the margins.
As I spoke to Jerome about setting a marginalized story within the Seattle community, he said this: “there are people brave enough to put these stories on stage.” This truth resonates throughout the work that Jerome and Andrew Russell (Director) are doing to expand the canon of Queer POC art in Seattle.
The Queens are to be revered. Their space is sacred, and while both Jerome and Andrew understand this is a staged experience, it is also very clear that the brown bodies on stage will not be disrespected. The story is one that is to be witnessed and forces the audience to grow as they walk through this journey with the Queens. Andrew simplified this idea saying this production allows the Queens to “convene and commune together”—it just so happens to be in front of a group of people.
I asked Jerome what he wants from the On the Boards audience and he said: “People who are not of color or not queer...people who are mainstream: I would love for you to come into the space not just curious of the other, but having done [your] work regarding learning about POC Queer folk. A more informed audience into the space. Be curious--she is a great pop jazz blues artist--[but] be curious about who she is and why we align with her through this play.”
With this in mind, House of Dinah is here to grant you the experience of a lifetime. Not often, do outsiders have the unique opportunity to experience the vulnerability and power of a QPOC rite of passage. I challenge you to activate your ability to bear witness, as House of Dinah carves out space for the Queens.