Sanctuary: Holding, A Queer Black Love Story

by Giovannah Philippeaux

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Wednesday February 22, 2017

Sanctuary: Holding, A Queer Black Love Story

"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free..." (Statue of Liberty). As those who have countlessly sought sanctuary upon these golden shores, the unique program presented at the Here theater offered a different type of solace. Bringing together marginalized voices, "Sanctuary" was a celebration of women, people of color, queer, and feminist voices.

Organized by Jonathan Cottle and Adam Salberg, in association with the Less Than Rent Theatre, "Sanctuary" created a safe space for the personal to become political. Using the theater and performance as a catalyst for community building and resilience, the program showcased the power of theater. Not only did the audience see reality for what it is, "Sanctuary" showed the audience what reality could become.

The program ran for nearly a month and featured many artists from across different genres. The performances on Valentine's Day included the unique talents of Alex Farr and Kimiko Matsuda-Lawrence (from "I, Too, Am Harvard" fame). A stark and bare stage, with unforgiving fluorescent lights came to life with the energies and passions of these two young actors.

Arranged as a series of seemingly unrelated monologues, "Holding: A Queer Black Love Story" delved into the psychology and emotional reality of the black female experience. A tremendous writing and acting accomplishment, this was surprisingly their debut performance.

This exceptional theatric experience expertly balanced humor and drama creating a unique experience that was intimate and relatable. It calls to mind sweet memories of simple moments spent with close friends, where all you had to do was simply be present in order to heal and feel the deep power of connection.

This show is surprisingly still in development -- how it can improve is an exciting mystery that will change your perspective on what the theater and performance can accomplish.

That evening also featured the quirky and delightful contemporary dance piece "Monopoly - a Landlord's Game," that offered a timely commentary on capitalism. Additionally, "Faster Than Bullets" offered insight into the horrifying reality of sexual assault that Latina migrant workers endure on a regular basis. Brief but important, this story, which is undertold, rightly makes you feel uncomfortable.

The "Sanctuary" series ended with the multi-disciplinary experience of "La Sirene." Combining exceptional live music, storytelling, dance, and a relevant historical narrative, "La Sirene" explored the roots of the immigrant experience. Showcasing struggle, triumph, and the unending yearning for liberation and freedom, the performance reminded the audience of a very important message -- nobody leaves their home country because they want to, they leave because they have to.

The actors embodied the harrowing journey across vast oceans and lands that refugees continue to endure as they seek solace; it is a journey that no one chooses lightly. Despite the somber subject matter, "La Sirene" reminded the audience of the strength that comes from music and community.

"Sanctuary" was truly about creating a safe space for the development and encouragement of community through art and performance. It spoke to a need that continues to exist and that hopefully "Sanctuary" and others like it will continue to meet.

The program was a monumental reminder of the power of creativity to break walls, build bridges, and create safe havens. An expression of gratitude is owed to those who had the foresight to organize such a program and for the artists that offered their talents to make it a reality.

"Sanctuary" ran through February 18 at the HERE Theater, 145 Sixth Avenue in New York City. For tickets or information, call 212-352-3101 or visit

Giovannah is a writer, editor, artisan, and entrepreneur. Learn more about Giovannah's work at