Our Life: Black Youth Stories Project

Experimental Media Performance Lab
University of California, Irvine
2015

Actor Taylor Fagins braces himself as he delivers a monologue about injustice

Background

Directed by Amanda Novoa and produced by Ross Jackson, Our Life: The Black Youth Stories Project is a performance piece inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement that tackles everything from violence against women’s bodies to police brutality. The script is centered around the current climate of black America and was created by engaging with local African-American youth. Our Life examines current events and relates them to oppression in the past and possibilities for overcoming racism in the future.

Sound Design Concept

The artistic team’s goal was to create an intimate environment by immersing the audience in sounds that would reflect the hardships contained within these stories. The sound team used clips from historical events and current news reports to craft sounds that conveyed a sense of direness and urgency. We created a larger-than-life prison door slamming sound as a metaphor for the imprisonment of the black community and as a commentary on the disproportionate incarceration of African-Americans. We extended this sonic theme throughout the play.

The Team

Director: Amanda Novoa
Producer: Ross Jackson
Sound Designers/Composers: Brian Svoboda & Mark Caspary
Scenic Designer: Morgan Price
Projection Designer: Glenn Michael Baker
Lighting Designer: Jaime Eby
Costume Designer: Kaitlyn Kaufman

Sound Samples

For the best listening experience, please use high quality headphones or speakers. Audio files are in uncompressed WAV format.

Click, Beep, Boom

by Brian Svoboda | Our Life: Black Youth Stories Project

One of the artists delivers a monologue that references the door lock (“click”), car alarm (“beep”), and door close (“boom”) sounds that he often hears when getting too close to a stranger’s car. We replaced the literal sounds mentioned by the artist with jail sounds. Our aim was to use these sounds symbolically to connect the the audience to the subsequent fear that black individuals carry and the despair they experience when interacting with society.

The Elephant in the Room

by Brian Svoboda | Our Life: Black Youth Stories Project

Played at the top of the show, this audio clip supports the media portrayal of black culture through the lens of violence and negativity by using real new clips to illustrate the brutal truth of the matter. When the TV is finally turned off, we hear the sound of chattering voices that alludes to lingering mental chaos from media overexposure. Soon thereafter, we are abruptly thrust into the stories of oppressed black youth in America, magnified by the sound of a jail cell door closing.

Blackness Is...

by Brian Svoboda | Our Life: Black Youth Stories Project

When the TV turns back on at the end of the show, the projection designers once again displayed negative news propaganda imagery. Instead of directly highlighting the visual design using sound, we instead ironically juxtaposed the imagery with the tune of “Oh Freedom”, a post-Civil War freedom song. The lyrics of this song as a function of the historical context in which it was written called upon our audience to invent a creative “next step” in addressing contemporary racism with the same ethos in which slavery was abolished.

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