The phenomenal Debbie Allen, three-time Emmy award winner for choreography, will present an original production at the John F. Kennedy Center’s Eisenhower Theater this weekend.
Allen’s “FREEZE FRAME… Stop the Madness,” is a fusion of cinema, spoken word, hip hop, song, and of course, dance, examining who we are and what role we can play in gun violence and social justice. The performance runs October 27 to 30.
“It takes place on the moment of a horrible incident getting ready to happen, and it stops,” Allen told Garcelle Beauvais and Ross Matthews of the Hollywood Today Live Show. “That’s why I called it FREEZE FRAME.”
The sensational musical originally premiered at the 2013 Brisbane Festival in Australia, relaying to a packed audience the American dilemma at the intersection of gun violence, race relations, loving children, and the police. It was also performed at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Los Angeles this February. Allen, a Houston native and a graduate of Howard University, plays the role of a Latino grandmother who is also a third-generation gang member.
FREEZE FRAME’s fusion starts with film, leads into stage, then dance, song, monologue, spoken word, and drama. The edgy artwork shows how the character’s lives connect because of an act of violence. The audience experiences how the characters impact others through a “real world” lens, leading to a life-changing surprise ending.
Allen recently revealed that she would like to see FREEZE FRAME become a national performance tour with a panel discussion and a dance day. The Kennedy Center, in its Centennial Celebration, has identified FREEZE FRAME as part of its programming because the piece celebrates Courage and Justice, two of the five ideals inspired by the center’s visionary, President John F. Kennedy.
Allen, also a Golden Globe award winner for acting, created this powerful fusion of art disciplines as a response to her observation of gang violence and senseless killings in Los Angeles more than 30 years ago.
In a recent national survey of 2,010 adults, including 1,567 registered voters, The Pew Research Center found that “the public overall remains divided over whether it is generally more important to protect the right of Americans to own guns (52 percent) [gun rights] or to control gun ownership (46 percent) [gun control].” FREEZE FRAME is street-inspired, aiming to enlighten audiences’ awareness of gun violence. Allen has positioned the piece to transform everyone’s heart and soul.
On the multiple Golden Globe and Emmy Award-winning TV show “Fame,” Allen’s character Lydia Grant memorably told dancers “you’ve got big dreams, you want fame, well fame costs; and right here is where you start paying… in sweat.” Allen is also an executive producer of Shonda Rhimes “Grey’s Anatomy” series.
Allen told Markette Sheppard and Chris Leary of the Great Day Washington TV Show that she feels chosen to produce FREEZE FRAME based upon her life’s work in the performing arts and the diverse Black and Latino community.
“When I worked for Ms. Allen as a dance instructor and stage manager at the Debbie Allen Dance Academy, we would come to Washington, D.C. to perform a production, and then take it back to Los Angeles as a gala production,” said Ralph Glenmore, a former Alvin Ailey dancer of nine years and a native Washingtonian. Over several years, Glenmore performed “Chorus Line” on Broadway and on tour, and later served as resident dance supervisor for “The Lion King” in Los Angeles.
“Ms. Allen can do everything,” he added. “She has the energy. She can teach, she can dance, she can perform, and direct. You have to respect her and follow her to learn. I would think, how do you do this, to keep this going?”
A free panel discussion will follow the 8 p.m. performance of FREEZE FRAME on Oct. 29, titled “Power of the Arts to Be Transformative,” and hosted by Whoopi Goldberg. Panelists include Nicole Hockley of Sandy Hook Promise; BET Honors Television and award-winning filmmaker Lee Daniels; BET Honors Theatrical Arts award-winner Phylicia Rashad; Dr. Michael Eric Dyson of Georgetown University; and Kayla Hicks, the Director of the African-American & Community Outreach with the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence.
For more information on Debbie Allen’s “FREEZE FRAME . . . Stop the Madness,” visit kennedy-center.org. Tickets cost $29 to $109.