Supplemental Materials for Say Word! > Goddess City
Abiola Abrams, your favorite bad girl and good woman, writes books, blogs and columns and broadcasts TV and web shows about love, lifestyle and pop culture. Current projects include: BBC Radio Entertainment Correspondent reporting on celebrity news and relationships, MTV Teen Dating Empowerment Coach on the reality series "Made," blogger and editor on her lifestyle site "Abiola's Passionista Playbook," and host/producer of her own award-winning web series and advice vlogs.
Abiola's upcoming book, The Passionista Playbook for Rockstar Living, is part humorous memoir, part fun handbook, about living with passion. Dare (Simon & Schuster), a hip hop love story, Abiola's popular debut novel was taught at Amherst College and her essays have been published in anthologies such as Behind the Bedroom Door, Dirty Words: A Literary Encyclopedia of Sex, and A Memory, A Monologue, A Rant and A Prayer.
In the past Abiola Abrams has hosted TV shows like BET's "The Best Shorts," HBO's "The Buzz" and NBC's "Source: All Access," starred as "Miss Picky" on VH1 reality series "Tough Love" and appears as a pop culture talking head on networks like FOX. Recent press includes being interviewed for a feature about sex toys in Essence Magazine, being quoted in The New York Times about Fashion Week and talking about the Person of the Year on The Judith Regan Show on Sirius XM Radio. Abiola has written for and been written about in publications from Gawker and Jezebel to Paper Magazine and Self.
Abiola is a lead lifestyle & entertainment content contributor (articles, videos, celebrity interviews) in the areas of love, lifestyle, pop culture including advertorial and branded entertainment. She's interviewed celebrities such as Patti Labelle, Quincy Jones, Chris Rock, Busta Rhymes, LL Cool J and Henry Louis Gates, Junior. Clients and sites include and have included: Pepsi We Inspire, American Airlines' Black Atlas, HP, Yahoo, Glam, Hello Beautiful, Examiner and Luv Em or Leave Em.
Abiola Abrams has given keynote addresses on empowerment at many schools such as NYU, The New School for Social Research and Howard University. She was featured in the 2010 Sex Bloggers Calendar and as a part of her ongoing safe sex initiative she directed the award-winning and critically acclaimed feminist erotica art film, "Afrodite Superstar." Her social issues short films and documentaries have shown in festivals, museums and universities.
Abiola Abrams has a BA from Sarah Lawrence and an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She curated the Chashama Gallery exhibit Hos, Putas and Dragon Ladies: Our Sexuality Remixed and VDay's Until the Violence Stops Film Festival at the Museum of The City of NY and the Museum of TV and Radio. Recently Abiola hosted the 6th Annual African American Literary Awards in New York City.
Antoy Grant is a Caribbean chameleon that can flip the script to fit the theme of any scene. From multi-talented actress, model, host and poet to writer, producer, director, camera diva, editor and entrepreneur.
Originally from Jamaica, West Indies and a graduate of Texas Southern University, Antoy passionately embraces all aspects of the entertainment business. Versatility enables her to perform effortlessly in front or behind the camera on a variety of distinctive projects.
Some of her acting television and film credits include: General Hospital, Law and Order, The Tonight Show w/Jay Leno, King of Queens, Devil's Advocate, Eraser, Deconstructing Harry, and The Substitute 2. She has been featured in numerous music videos and appeared in various national magazines.
Antoy co-created, wrote, executive produced, and starred in "Goddess City" a live musical poetry concert that enjoyed a successful Off-Off Broadway run and whirlwind tour. This critically acclaimed show explores issues of spirituality, self-love, empowerment, womanhood, abuse, beauty myths, humanity, culture and the entertainment industry. "Goddess City's" impact in the world of theater was so powerful that the written play is featured in the new anthology book "Say Word." "Goddess City" is now widely considered the first Hip Hop Poetry Theater.
In 2007 she founded Mangoseed Productions a full service multimedia production company that creates corporate videos, promo videos, commercials, music videos, film as well as programming for television, the web and beyond. Her company provides the ultimate vehicle for all of Antoy's various talents and work. If you can think it she can create it. In her first few years she created over 30 different projects that span a variety of genres.
In 2012 Antoy launches her new multimedia platform featuring many exciting new programs including her own web series entitled "The Antoy Show" which will be the first of many inspiring new mini-programs. She is in pre-production for her first feature film that she wrote and will also produce, direct and star in. She is also shopping unique unscripted shows to the networks.
This multi-talented actress, writer, producer, director and editor works in a variety of different roles on various projects simultaneously and manages to stay focused. In the words of Antoy Grant "I'm Jamaican, wi use to doin 10 job at 1 time."
Committed to effecting change in lives, she has helped numerous people of all ages, genders, cultural and socio-economic backgrounds through her live performances, public speaking, workshops, classes, one on one's, seminars and retreats. She has also conducted numerous Self Esteem and Empowerment Workshops in variety of locations and events nationwide including New York Cultural Centers, Public Schools, Conventions and Expos.
Antoy is impassioned to create meaningful works of expression through the medium of
entertainment and the arts that make a difference in people's lives and inspire the world.
Her company tagline powerfully states:
"Believe your Dreams, Live your Passions, Create your Destiny!"
By Abiola Abrams
When I was a Sarah Lawrence student in the 1990s, for colored girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow is enuf happened to me. From a background of performing mostly Shakespeare, the only plays of color that I had ever experienced were The Colored Museum and A Raisin in the Sun. for colored girls was different. Even though the play was a '70s artifact, it spoke to me clearly and, when Ntozake Shange visited Sarah Lawrence, I was blown away. Shortly thereafter, I had any innocence about the entertainment industry destroyed when an LA agent told me that he was not taking on any African American ingénues because the roles available were either slapstick or non-existent. He finished with, "Previously you could complain; but now your own people are writing this stuff." I returned to New York City devastated but with the objective of writing a new millennium for colored girls… that spoke to my experiences as a member of the Hip Hop generation. The story would be one of young women seeking their own divinity and to "find god in themselves and love Her fiercely." Jessica Levy, a Brearley alum from the 1950s, introduced us to our first theater home, The Present Company.
I had written the pieces Groceries, Castration, Killa Bee, Gone, Constitution, and Listen and thought that I would call the play "An Auto/Bio/Graphic Peace." My idealistic vision was that of seven young women in our twenties collaborating to create a play of our experience that would also be our vehicle. As I tried to organize various actresses/writers into a group, Antoy Grant rose from the fray as a co-leader and co-author on the project. Her writing was bold, snappy, and humorous: Are You Pretty, You Fit the Description, Lil Ho, Come With Me, and Beauty Shop.
Happy accidents happened, like an early performer insisting that we needed a more powerful label like queens, divas, goddesses, or princesses. Goddesses—yes, that was it—her words sang in my soul. That was the missing link. These women were goddesses in every aspect, and now we had the name. It resonated within me that this quest for goddessness was not only the missing link to the play that became Goddess City but to all of my future work. When I delved into studying goddess mythology, I realized that we had inadvertently built into the structure the essential virgin, mother, and crone archetypes in the goddesses of Fever, Nerve, and Truth. Elements were being orchestrated by unseen hands.
Antoy and I were the Goddess of Fever and Goddess of Nerve who ate, breathed, and slept Goddess City. The play's critical third seat, the Goddess of Truth, was a revolving door with actresses Kimberly Howard, Bridget Kelso, and Rosalinda Bermudez each adding a special energy. Our director, Daniel Banks, helped to bring form.
Fast forward 10 years, goddessness is pretty much a way of life for me. My company is called the Goddess Factory, and my female characters usually have goddess names. No matter what else I do—publish my first novel, direct movies, host a TV show, etc.— my parents always dote on Goddess City and ask me, often, when I will "bring it back." So now, dear reader, it's in your hands. May the audacity of Goddess City Be With You.
By Antoy Grant
Welcome to Goddess City where we flow between media combining spoken-word, funk songs, incantations, call-n-response, hip-hop mythology, dance and percussionist rhythms into a life-changing, mind-altering trip.
Wow, this all sounds super fly now, but let's rewind and find out how the journey to Goddess City began.
After working in the business from many years acting, modeling, and writing, I had experienced success but always felt I wanted to do more with and through my art. My television pilot was getting buzz from the networks, and I cast Abiola in a reading. We later reconnected and found out we had a lot of the same experiences, ideas, thoughts, and feelings, so we teamed up to develop and write a musical, poetry concert. Exploring issues of abuse, beauty myth, womanhood, empowerment, heritage, self-love, and the entertainment industry, this collaboration is now what is known as Goddess City.
After finally finding the first Goddess of Truth, Goddess City premiered with Frank Silvera's Writing Workshop at The National Black Theater Festival in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Its first staged appearance was at The Nuyorican Poet's Café, and the play was then workshopped at The Present Company Theater. Amina and Amiri Baraka invited Goddess City to perform at their showcase Kimako's Blues People, kicking off a whirlwind of performances in every type of venue imaginable.
A few of my proudest moments with Goddess City include opening to a standing-room only show at The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture with opening remarks from the late Ossie Davis; opening up for Sonia Sanchez; meeting August Wilson and having him say we were "the next playwrights of the century"; and performing at CBGB's and the Million Woman March.
Goddess City was one of the first of its kind. Looking back 10 years later, Goddess City is timeless yet before its time. The world may just now be ready for Goddess City. It is an amazing and never-ending journey.
I am honored to be the Goddess of Fever and bring to life the desire that inspires and drives all of us to fulfill our passions, dreams and ultimate destiny. Know that Goddess City is and always has been with you. WORD!!!! Love Antoy….. aka……..Goddess of Fever
By Abiola Abrams and Antoy Grant
To Read these words is merely human...
To See these words performed is divine...
Goddess City. Is it a play? Musical? Cabaret act? Theater troupe? Girl Group? Or is it a place?
Goddess City was one of the world's first Hip Hop plays, a performance group and a poetic concert experience. Goddess City is for colored girls meets Destiny's Child, the Goddesses of Nerve, Fever, and Truth moving fluidly between media.
The Goddess Tribe band, DJ, and percussionists set the mood and atmosphere throughout the entire piece while performer-actress-poets playing goddess-actress-poets live out scenes in song, movement, and words.
The show begins in The City of Goddess, a far away reality from which three chosen Goddesses—Nerve, Fever, and Truth, the last who still care for "Auntie Earth"—are sent to save the planet with their power of words. Their mission is to give a voice to the voiceless by sharing stories of the soul. The catch? The three will live individual lives as mortal women until they remember their power. If they are unable to complete their mission, the earth will be destroyed.
The characters of Nerve (courage), Fever (sensuality), and Truth (integrity) are on a search for self-esteem. The essences of these women remain constant as they assume different roles. The complex and varied issues that plague the Goddesses as they live as earth women include: the beauty myth, the media, self-exploitation, female genital circumcision, sexual stereotypes, misconceptions of race, abortion, violence, and pre-judgment to name a few.
Acting auditions frame the show to raise the issues that plague the personae of Nerve, Fever, and Truth throughout their life journeys. The faceless casting directors represent the judgmental voices of society. Competing to be chosen by the casting directors is a metaphor for the ways that we are judged. Nerve, Fever, and Truth each respond to the auditions by embodying the category into which the superficial casting director/society has attempted to pigeonhole them with lines being taken from actual audition situations the playwrights had experienced or heard about.
Nerve, Fever, and Truth realize their inherent Goddessness when, fed up with the tribulations of looking to others for answers, the trinity decide that the answer is to create their own show rather than continue to audition for others. In other words, they free "Auntie Earth" themselves, but only when they have decided to live life as they choose without waiting for approval.
The Book of Goddess—Pre-earth life in the land in the City of Goddess
The Goddess of Nerve, Fever, and Truth are on their way to earth. They experience the love and camaraderie of The City of Goddess before they leave to save the "water planet." The childhood section of the show is a part of this book because, as kids, they have not yet become fully of the earth.
The Book of Nerve—Examines the quest of courage
Searching for the courage to accept herself as she is, Nerve is bold, brash, loud, and outspoken. Nerve eventually learns that true courage comes from within. Nerve's essence is wild and fun, as are the pieces in this section.
The Book of Truth—Examines the quest of self/identity
On a quest for identity beyond stereotypes, Truth experiments with different personalities. Her confusion comes from taking cues from any and everyone who offers a suggestion about who she is and who she should become. She spends her days on earth trying to figure out how to be real to herself. Truth's essence is strong, honest, frank, and straightforward, as with the pieces in this section.
The Book of Fever—Examines the quest for love
Fever is sultry and has a powerful sense of her feminine physical self but is unsure how this translates into true emotion. Before Fever remembers that she is the Goddess of Fever, she confuses her need for love with sexuality. The essence of Fever is love, affection, beauty, and artistic grace. She assumes an "I don’t care" facade because it is too painful for her to admit just how much she really does care. Fever is sensual in the original sense of the word, and the pieces in this section revolve around this reality.
The Book of Revelations—Mental breakdown, then re-memory of inherent Goddessness
In their final audition, Nerve, Fever, and Truth come together and refuse to audition ever again. This new found independence liberates them as they cry out to the heavens for help, triggering their memory of having been goddesses. They are reborn with a sense of mission and a new approach to life. The show ends with their vow to help others.
Photos courtesy Collette Bonaparte.