Sunday, May 2, 2010

a rhyme for the UNDERground

a rhyme for the UNDERground

written and performed by chandra thomas

Monday, May 17th, 7pm

The Barrow Group Theater

The Studio Theater

312 West 36th Street (at 8th Avenue)
New York, NY 10018
($5 suggested donation)

“Oh, you’re developing a solo show. . .why would you do that?”

A dear friend asked me this question about a year ago when i mentioned that i was in the midst of developing a rhyme for the UNDERground.

“I don’t even go to see one-person shows anymore,” he further explained as i gave my knowing smile.

Frankly, i understand the reluctance to see yet another solo show. i too have had to endure more than my fair share of overindulgent, dry, self-congratulatory one-person shows. Of course, through the mire there are some beautiful, standout gems, but it often seems like you have to wade through much “mire” to get to the “gems”.

And, as a rhyme continues to evolve, it has truly been amazing journey so far shaping this gem. :^)

The idea for this play started when subway fare was only $1.50. The New York Historical Society was running an exhibit about the enslavement system in New York and i went to the exhibit. Being a native New Yorker, i had known vague details about the lives of enslaved Africans in New York, but the general stuff, like how Broadway and Wall Street were built by enslaved Africans during this era in New York’s history and there was an African burial site uncovered several years ago in downtown Manhattan. You know, general stuff. What captivated me about the exhibit (and is so crucial in untangling this nation’s history) were the personal accounts and specific stories that were instrumental to recounting the intricate history. So, in this flood of images and facts and reflection, for some reason the name Violet stood out among the many placards and signs. Violet was (. . . well, to be honest, all i remember of Violet these many subway-fare hikes later, is that she was an enslaved woman in New York City.) But on the subway ride home right after leaving the exhibit i just scribbled on one of the papers i had collected during the tour, “What if Violet saved a teenage girl today?” (i co-founded a non-profit, performing arts-education organization to work with teen girls so they are sort of always on my mind!)

“What if Violet saved a teenage girl today?”

It is from this simple question that a rhyme for the UNDERground began.

When i finally started to find answers to that question (right around the giant fare hike to $2), the piece was a multi-character, multi-actor play. But as the play called for more poetry, dance, original songs, spoken word and rap, it became clear that there was actually one central voice in the play—the voice of the character “chandra”. All of the other characters were, in fact, connected to this core character in a way that necessitated a single actor performing the entire piece. From “chandra’s” central humanity these other (now EIGHTEEN) characters were there to shape, guide and transform her. It has been amazing (and frightening!) to see that these other characters have always been and always will be pieces of the puzzle that compose this woman trying to figure out her journey.

My friend who asked that inciting question at subway fare price $2.25 has RSVPed as a “Maybe” to the Facebook invitation for the special workshop performance on May 17th, as part of Coyote REP’s Works-In-Development Series . (Please note that i did NOT send him that invite :^) So he just may be there. . .

Either way—











Male Voice


Dr. Barkley




chandra, and, of course,


will be there on this stop on the ride of a rhyme for the UNDERground.

Join the trend on Twitter:: #arhyme

Originally from New York, chandra thomas is an actor/writer/producer. As an actor, performances include No Child... (2009 Barrymore Award nomination for Outstanding Leading Actress), Coney Island Avenue (NYTW), Reflections of a Heart (Theatre Row). Other theatre performances include contemporary and classical works at Classical Theatre of Harlem (AUDELCO nomination), Public Theatre, Guthrie, Women's Project Theatre, Alliance Theatre, Ensemble Studio Theater, Cherry Lane Theatre, P.S. 122, among others. On screen, chandra has most recently performed in co-star roles on The Good Wife and Law & Order: CI as well as a supporting role in the upcoming independent feature Sweet Lorraine. As a writer, her other plays include Standing At..., A Woman/B Woman, LETTERS (co-created), and many poetry/spoken word pieces; she is also currently working on several screenplays, including the feature LoveMatters. chandra is the co-founder of viBe Theater Experience, an award-winning, non-profit, performing-arts education organization empowering teenage girls in New York City. a rhyme for the UNDERground is her first full-length, solo play. Of course there is more info at

The New Play Development Program is our commitment to nurturing the original work of our company's playwrights. This intensive, ten-month program provides a structured series of workshops culminating in our May Works-in-Development Series, a public presentation of readings.

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