Anna Martine Whitehead, FORCE! an opera in three acts

Event Type
Event Description

This is an opera, but what is an opera? If opera is defined simply as “big work,” what could be blacker? FORCE! features a live band that blends gospel, folk, pop, and jazz, with experimental dance, song, and the spoken word. As the work unfolds, characters reveal layered interiors creating a strange sisterhood with the power to disintegrate walls that blooms in the shadows of the prison industrial complex. As the artists manifest the free worlds of which they dream on stage, their voices resound with collective power. A meditation on often-overlooked spaces—prison waiting rooms—FORCE! travels through silence, sound, and rhythm to dissipate borders between performers and audience members and question who truly controls how their time is spent.

Comprised of a Chicago-based cast, FORCE! is created by Anna Martine Whitehead alongside co-music directors, Ayanna Woods and Teiana Davis; co-composers, Phillip Armstrong and Angel Bat Dawid; and is devised in collaboration with performers Zachary Nicol, Jenn Freeman, Rahila Coats, Eva Supreme, Nexus J, Daniella Hope, Brittany Brown, Kai Black, and Wyatt Wadell; with extra help from Tramaine Parker and Jasmine Mendoza.

Since late 2019, FORCE! has developed as an iterative re-imagining of performance practice, constantly re-centering care, consent, queer divergence, and rest. The creative team re-imagines rehearsal protocols and releases disciplinary categories to build an abolitionist feminist theater practice. This project gathers lessons from lichens and other emergent strategies, direct actions, and mutual aid societies and leverages sound and movement as vectors for processing state violence and racial capitalism. Using the prison as a particular prism through which we can bear witness to the ways carceral systems replicate themselves. FORCE! is also an attempt to abolish the Prison Industrial Complex in the audience and artist’s heads, hearts, and houses.

Libretto by Anna Martine Whitehead. Composed by Ayanna Woods, Anna Martine Whitehead, Angel Bat Dawid, and Philip Armstrong.

Runtime: approx. 80 min.

This performance is part of On Stage: Resonance, organized by Tara Aisha Willis, former Curator in Performance, with Laura Paige Kyber, Curatorial Associate.

Running Time
1 hour 20 minutes


Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago

220 E. Chicago Ave.
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 397-4010