Batiste Performance Image

Theatrical Jazz and Phases of Black Womanhood in Batiste's "Blue Gold & Butterflies"

Dr. Stephanie Leigh Batiste, Associate Professor of English at The University of California at Santa Barbara, and Director of the Hemispheric South/s Research Initiative

This presentation blends the creative and scholarly in a consideration of Batiste’s play “Blue Gold & Butterflies.” Batiste reflects on the critical goals of her creative efforts to capture the history of a family and the impacts of trauma, choice, and change. A goddess, a ghost, and a memory accompany a mother and daughter on their journeys through self realization. Lasting affective shift becomes a goal that lurks deeper than self reflection and beyond generational legacy. Our characters both love through and rely on the the maladaptations they strive to change. Through poetry, the play happens in multiple temporalities at the same time as the women strive to pass down intergenerational love. In prose and play, the women reach towards a collective way of relating to each other as well as to knowledge and ambiguities of self. Repetitions and resonances across generations emerge in meetings with the past, with spirit, and with the ancestors to ask what it means to survive trauma and live with loving intention. 


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Dr. Stephanie Leigh Batiste is Associate Professor of English at The University of California at Santa Barbara and Director of the Hemispheric South/s Research Initiative. Her specialty areas include Black Performance Studies, African American Literature and Culture, and Cultural Studies. She is co-editor of the book series Performance and American Cultures with New York University Press. Professor Batiste received her Doctorate of Philosophy and Master’s of Philosophy in American Studies from The George Washington University in Washington, D.C. Her Bachelor’s Degree is from Princeton University awarded with honors in Sociology and additional concentrations in African American Studies and Theater. Her book, Darkening Mirrors: Imperial Representation in Depression Era African American Performance (Duke University Press, 2011) is the 2011 recipient of the MLA William Sanders Scarborough Prize and honorable mention for the ATHE Book Award. Darkening Mirrors focuses on the relationship between power and identity in black performance cultures to reimagine black subjectivity as both empowered and resistant in relation to national and racial identities. Professor Batiste’s current book project studies violence and affect in millennial black urban performance cultures and touches upon grief, space, and temporality. Dr. Batiste’s work in performance is reflected in both scholarship and practice. Dr. Batiste is a creative writer, performer, and supporter of the arts. Dr. Batiste has performed her play about street murder in Los Angeles, Stacks of Obits (Women and Performance, 2005) in the U.S. and abroad. Drawing upon Africanist traditions of the griot, the Post-civil-rights spoken word, post-modern challenges to linearity, and feminist modes of rendering the personal political, Stacks of Obits transforms organic, public practices of memory and archiving into enlivened story. Her recent play Blue Gold & Butterflies follows three generations of women seeking to pass down intergenerational love through life’s hard choices. Blue Gold & Butterflies was workshopped at the L.A. Bootleg Theater Creation Residency in 2018. Professor Batiste’s performance short, “Young Love Found & Lost: six poems in a circle” was part of TowneStreet Theater’s In Response: the Year of the Woman in 2018 and 2019.