This summer senior Sarah Lou Kiernan participated in the third session of the #BARS Workshop, an 8-week development workshop at The Public Theater. The #BARS Workshop is a lab series created by artists Rafael Casal & Daveed Diggs, to serve as a space for artists to investigate the intersection between contemporary verse and Theater.
When I watched the first Bars Workshop cohort rap the stories of Alice in Wonderland, Scandal and Kill Bill, it felt as if every book I have read, every song I've cherished, and every word I’ve written had been to prepare me to write and perform this style.
Hip-hop is a metered expression of stories that demand to be heard, and it's been around a lot longer than you'd expect. I'm going to say a bar from either a rap artist or Shakespeare, and I want you to decide which of the two wrote it.
Number 1 was Kendrick Lamar from Compton. Number 2 was Jay-Z from Brooklyn. Number 3 was William Shakespeare from Stratford Upon Avon.
Theater in verse, whether that be a 4/4 time signature or iambic pentameter, has been around forever taking the colloquialisms of modern speech and heightening them to metered expression. Hamilton is just as effective at this as Hamlet.
Working with Rafael Casal and Daveed Diggs, both masters of theater in verse, at The Public Theater was an absolute dream. To walk the halls of The Public for rehearsal and take in the history of it's influence made our responsibility of rewriting the future overwhelmingly motivating.
Rafa and Daveed created a new wave impressionist salon at Bars where the voices of the future collaborate, inspire and learn from one another. I learned just as much from collaborating with my fellow cohort members as I did hearing their stories about the industry, life and watching them lead by example.
It is said that in order to call yourself a New Yorker you must live 10 years in New York, and I always thought it was the same for calling yourself a writer. Rafa, Daveed, our TAs Sofia and Karl taught me the practical tools and work ethic to feel confident to earn that title.
We participated in masterclasses live streamed on The Public Theater's: social media singing with Jasmine Cephas Jones, talking shop with Oak Onaodowan and freestyling with James Monroe Iglehart - all from Hamilton. We worked out with Cynthia Erivo of The Color Purple, philosophized with writer Dessa, and learned how to tell a story with poet Sarah Kay.
We learned the importance of making space for stories of all people and how that uphill battle begins in the writer's room. As the only writer to be accepted to Bars while still in college I am grateful to have so much time to grow and continue the work started this summer both within and apart from academic institutions.
The past two iterations of Bars chose movies and tv, followed by literature as their themes to write scenes in verse. The third cohort chose images so we could breathe motion into immortalized stills and flip the accepted narrative of an iconic image on it's head. We wrote, rewrote, revised, shot, and performed our pieces over the course of eight weeks. The filmed culmination of our eight weeks shot at YouTube Studios will be released in the upcoming weeks.
Bars is a theatrical frontier pusher. Bars is the opportunity of a lifetime. Bars is a community for life, and I couldn't be more grateful to be apart of it.