A decoder that reveals a secret message was in the final package I received from Tiny Dynamite’s exciting play-by-mail experience, A Breath For Us. Through six packages filled with letters, trinkets, newspaper clippings and more, you’ll become immersed in a story between two young Black women during the Civil Rights Movement in the late 1960s.
Ruthy heads to Chicago, joins the One Hundred and One, and helps to establish Kimunmoto, a free Black state within the US. She writes home to her dear friend Josie with details of her new life at the front of the movement and often reflects on their history and memories growing up together.
How does Ruth’s story and life play out? What happens in the future, long after the 1960s? What does Josie think of everything Ruth tells her? A Breath For Us is unlike any other theatre experience I’ve enjoyed since stages went dark. I looked forward to receiving a package from these characters in my mailbox each week and being transported to a time that I’ve only ever learned about in books and movies. It’s like I was personally uncovering long lost secrets and events that no one else knew about. This is a history lesson, and a love story, that twists what you may already know about the Civil Rights Movement and transports you to another world completely.
A Breath For Us also goes beyond the mailbox with an online resource page so you can learn more about the topics mentioned in each letter. After you finish reading everything Ruth has to say to Josie each week, you can log onto Tiny Dynamite’s website for a mini history lesson (and a song choice to play in the background) as you dive deeper into the experience and learn about the events in the letters.
Tiny Dynamite reached out to longtime collaborator Sara Outing, a designer behind many of their shows, and commissioned her to create a piece that would respond to 2020’s Black Lives Matter protests by experimenting with new creative forms of art. With a designer at the front of this piece, objects and mementos were developed before text. Current events forced a look back over history and “what if” scenarios came to Outing’s mind. Jarrett McCreary is a Philadelphia playwright and educator who tells stories that feature Black and/or queer characters and encourages conversations about human connections. He added words to Outing’s objects and ideas for this timely story. A Breath for Us was born.
Tiny Dymanite’s entire season is one of the most creative I’ve witnessed as the pandemic allowed theatres all over to think beyond the stage and develop works that could be experienced in new ways. On the surface, A Breath for Us is an at-home experience that had me running to the mailbox each week to see what would unfold in the next chapter. But once I received all six packages and examined each letter and artifact closer, all in one sitting, I saw so much more.
I hope you do too. A Breath for Us will play for an “encore performance” beginning on June 15th and it’s anticipated to sell out. For $40 per household, you can be a part of Josie’s and Ruth’s history as well. Ticket info is available here.