PASA, Lafayette Travel, and St. Landry Parish Tourism partner to present “Sacred Spaces?”
Performing Arts Serving Acadiana (PASA), in conjunction with the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance (CPRD), Lafayette Travel, and St. Landry Parish Tourism, presents the world premiere of "Sacred Spaces?," taking place Saturday, September 17 at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House in Denver, CO.
"Sacred Spaces?" acknowledges and seeks to heal faith communities in Denver, CO, and St. Landry Parish, LA, by confronting the loss of four communities' sacred spaces through church arson in 1925 and 2019. Parker Robinson's choreography will be accompanied by an original new composition by 2009 GRAMMY Award winner Adonis Rose, Artistic Director of the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, who will be performing live music and vocals at the premiere event in Denver.
"The burning of the churches in St. Landry Parish compelled me to take some sort of action, which resulted in this examination, from the stage, of acts of violence against houses of worship, reconciliation, and redemption," says Jacqueline Lyle, Executive Director of Performing Arts Serving Acadiana (PASA). "Thankfully, Cleo Parker Robinson and Adonis Rose, Artistic Director of the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, accepted the challenge. Equally important, the pastors and congregations of St. Mary Missionary Baptist Church and Mount Pleasant Baptist Church were willing to open their hearts to the artistic team."
"We are pleased to partner with PASA, the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance, and St. Landry Parish Tourism on this great project," says Lafayette Travel President & CEO Ben Berthelot. He continued, "We are also excited to be a part of the premiere in Denver and share a little bit of our culture with media and patrons in the area before the production makes its way across the country."
"When the church burnings happened in St. Landry Parish, people from all over the country, all over the world, reached out to lend a helping hand," says Herman Fuselier, Executive Director of the St. Landry Parish Tourist Commission. "They turned the ugly side of humanity into something beautiful. 'Sacred Spaces?' continues that outreach because that's what artists do – make the world a better place."
The "Sacred Spaces?" performance will take place on Saturday, September 17, at 7:30 p.m. at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House in Denver, CO, with a reception hosted by Lafayette Travel to follow the performance. The next day, there is a matinee performance on Sunday, September 18, at 2:00 p.m. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit KUVO.org/Event/Sacred-Spaces.
Genesis of Sacred Spaces?
The concept of "sacred spaces" encompasses myriad elements of culture, emotion, and spirit. The CPRD Fall Concert highlights critical Civil Rights issues such as the three church burnings which destroyed the sacred spaces of three Black communities in St. Landry Parish, Opelousas, LA, on March 27, April 2, and April 4, 2019: St. Mary Missionary Baptist Church, Greater Union Baptist Church, and Mount Pleasant.
Missionary Baptist Church, respectively. This loss is also linked to that of Denver's second oldest and longest established Black church, Shorter AME, in Five Points, in a devastating fire on April 9, 1925, in what was then a segregated neighborhood—allegedly by the Denver KKK (the arsonist has not been identified to this day). An historic structure, it has been the home of Cleo Parker Robinson Dance since 1987 (the current Shorter AME Church is located in a newer, larger facility east of its former location). Before it burned, Shorter AME Church had Gothic-style architecture. Rebuilt remarkably only 1.5 years later by its congregation, it was reshaped to its current Spanish Revival style.
In 2019, Jacqueline (Jackie) Lyle, Executive Director of Performing Arts Serving Acadiana (PASA) approached Denver's Cleo Parker Robinson Dance, known for artivism (social justice art activism) in her research to help heal the community she serves.
In June 2022, Cleo Parker Robinson (CPRD) and Adonis Rose (Grammy Award-winning composer and Director of the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra [NOJO]) visited St. Landry Parish with Winifred Harris, Associate Artistic Director of CPRD, Malik Robinson, CPRD Executive Director, and Micah Bursh, a new member to the CPRD Marketing Team who is native to the state and attended the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Beyond basic fact-finding, those visits began a deeper conversation with church members who lost their sacred spaces to a single arsonist (convicted; now in Federal prison). These conversations helped Parker Robinson and Rose develop a connection in understanding the 2019 loss and reflect on the Shorter AME church community's loss in 1925. These physical, social, emotional, and spiritual elements will take shape in the music and performance of "Sacred Spaces?"