Tift Merritt & Allison Russell
Tift Merritt and Allison Russell
Join us Friday, April 16, at noon EST for a discussion about the Hungry River project. Hungry River is a performance collaboration between Tift Merritt, Allison Russell (Our Native Daughters, Birds of Chicago), and playwright and cultural worker Nina Angela Mercer, exploring the emotional history of North Carolina’s segregated asylum and the prophetic importance of the people who lived their lives there. Through song and monologue, ceremony and storytelling, this community history helps us understand not only the asylum’s past but also how that past informs the ways we view race relations, poverty, criminalized margins, and the stigma of mental illness today.
Hungry River began as a collection of objects — a language of abandoned essential knowledge — from asylums across NC. Within were much more than the simplistic diagnoses left in medical archives — sickness, heartbreak, poverty, loss of a child, the war, pregnancy — but appropriate responses to a mad flawed world. A young woman’s grave covered in pine branches, a photograph of a WWI veteran in a velvet suit, the hospital brass band, river roots from an unmarked graveyard, a moth caught for decades in an intake record — Hungry River travels lyrical presences in archived materials, buildings, collective memory, and a forgotten box of photographs seeking how best to reconnect and care for lost stories.
As part of Duke Performances’ and Duke Arts’ In Conversation series this spring, the artists will offer an introduction to the many components of Hungry River. This work-in-process showing functions as the first of many invitations for shared narrative and community response — a framework and sounding call for the site as catalysts for art and study and a rare opportunity to explore memory, trauma and resilience.
Free and open to the public. Co-sponsored by Duke Performances, Duke Arts, and the Forum for Scholars and Publics at Duke University.