University of Houston and University of Houston Clear Lake collaborate on bringing "Lyrics from Lockdown” production to the Bayou Theater 

A unique partnership and collaboration between the University of Houston School of Theatre & Dance and the University of Houston Clear Lake is set to make waves in the realm of social justice, advocacy, and the American legal system. The project, which aims to engage artists and community members from across the University of Houston campus communities and beyond, has been described as a groundbreaking endeavor that combines artistry with activism. 

The collaboration will kick off with the opening reception of the Texas Appleseed "I Heart Justice Project" Art Exhibition, where attendees will have the opportunity to explore the powerful and thought-provoking artworks inspired by the theme of social justice. An original performance by the UH Dance Ensemble will follow, setting the stage for an evening that promises to evoke deep emotions and contemplation. 

One of the highlights of the event is the multimedia production "Lyrics from Lockdown" by Bryonn Bain, a work that delves into the issues of wrongful incarceration by fusing hip-hop theatre, spoken word poetry, blues, and calypso — with a live band and a video DJ. Following the performance, a talkback session led by Rob Reiner will provide a platform for discussion and reflection on the themes presented in Bain's work. 

Elizabeth Coen, Assistant Professor and Head of the M.A. in Theatre Studies at the School of Theatre & Dance, expressed the significance of this collaboration, stating, "This collaboration is very special because it will bring together artists and community members from across the UH campus communities, the state of Texas, and the greater U.S. to engage in a dialogue about social justice, advocacy, and the American legal system." 

As a professor of dramaturgy, Coen Ph.D., has been instrumental in bridging community connections between the University of Houston and the University of Houston Clear Lake. She emphasized the importance of involving students in the project and collaborating with Professor Key’Aira Lockett in choreographing the Dance Ensemble. 

Key’Aira Lockett, Assistant Professor of Dance and Director of UH Dance Ensemble, shared her perspective on the project, saying, "This project for the opening reception of the 'I Heart Justice Project' Art Exhibition introduced me to a completely unexplored realm. I had never delved into the theme of incarceration, nor had I previously worked with a group of 19 dancers." 

"What made this journey particularly intriguing was the revelation that emerged during our research and implementation phase..."
Key'Aira Lockett

Lockett emphasized the personal and transformative aspect of this collaboration, noting, "What made this journey particularly intriguing was the revelation that emerged during our research and implementation phase — it uncovered each individual's distinct connection to the subject matter. This process not only allowed for diverse perspectives but also, if I may say, provided a cathartic outlet for the release of pent-up frustrations with the unjust legal system among all involved, indirectly or directly." 

Students involved in the project have also shared their experiences and insights. Talia Saulsberry, a student, discussed how the collaborative choreographic process has expanded her understanding of dance and performance art. She stated, "Something that I’ve learned while working on this piece is how collaborative the choreographic process can be and in turn, how unique the movements can be." 

Zuri Humphrey, another student, highlighted the importance of communication and collaboration in a large cast, noting, "Working with 10-12 people at one time is hard, and deciding on one thing in a sea of different minds can be challenging. Despite this, overcoming this challenge was only feasible by taking a step back to open my ears and listen." 

The project not only promises to deliver a powerful and emotionally charged performance but also provides a platform for students to explore the intersections of art, justice, and advocacy. As these talented individuals come together to showcase their artistry, they hope to inspire audiences to contemplate the pressing issues of our society and the role that art can play in promoting social change. 

The event is expected to be a deeply personal and intimate experience for the audience, with the dancers performing in a non-traditional theater space that allows for a distinctive viewing experience. 

With themes of social justice and incarceration at the forefront, the project aims to spark conversations and action, ultimately challenging the status quo and advocating for a more just society.