Napoleon Maddox Talks About “A Dance Between Dana Franklin and Millie-Christine”

napoWe recently talked to Midwest BSFA member Napoleon Maddox about his Dec. 18 event “A Dance Between Dana Franklin and Millie-Christine,” a performance that will merge the real lives of Millie-Christine McKoy (subjects of his upcoming show, Twice the First Time) with Octavia Butler’s science fiction character, Dana, from the novel Kindred

Midwest BSFA: “A Dance Between Dana Franklin and Millie-Christine” is a lead-in to Twice the First Time, your upcoming show at the Contemporary Arts Center, correct? Why did you feel it was necessary to do this event for the February 2017 premiere?
Maddox: This event gives audiences some context and tools for thinking about the Twice the First Time in the way I envisioned. Everyone should go away with much more than just the thought of “wow they were very different, their bodies were connected.” There is so much more to get out of this creation. This group reading/workshop and performance will enhance the experiences of attendees and energize my approach as presenter of the February premiere of Twice the First Time.

Midwest BSFA: How did you come up with the concept for “A Dance Between Dana Franklin and Millie-Christine”?
Maddox: As I wrote the songs and analysis of Millie-Christine McKoy, I realized that I had a unique opportunity to introduce them in an exciting fresh way to hundreds of thousands of people who didn’t know their story and priceless lessons. By doing this, we are experiencing them. They are able to ‘glide’ through our presence as Dana did from another time and place, another world.

Midwest BSFA: In the workshop prior to “A Dance Between Dana Franklin and Millie-Christine” on Dec. 18, you’re leading a group discussion on and select readings from Kindred, a novel by Octavia Butler, and Conjoined Twins in Black and White, a non-fiction collection edited by Linda Frost. Why did you choose those?
Maddox: I know and understand why some people say look ahead to the future, not behind to the past, but it’s interesting to think about the impact history can have when you see pivotal historic characters as currently dynamic. Especially when we remember and reference them as resources for ways to think, problem solve and live. I see tremendous power in thinking about Millie-Christine as existing both then (1800s) and now…like Dana. That dynamic ‘reformats’ the way we have to think about them. This way we have imagine things we would otherwise consider about them, our time, ourselves, etc.

Midwest BSFA: As a hip-hop head, I’m sure you know that “Twice the First Time” is the name of a Saul Williams track! Is that where you got the name from? Did that track inspire you in any way? If so, how?
Maddox:
I do know that track. Super dope track, by the way. But there is not a real link between Saul’s song and this project. We are friends and told him I decided on the name of the project without thinking to deeply where I’d it before and then remembered his track later. I was sort of asking if he was cool with me borrowing the title. He laughed and told me, he borrowed it from the title of a Branford Marsalis album. He was also fascinated with the project and we are working on a song together to add to the repertoire.

Midwest BSFA: Take us through your research process on Millie-Christine McKoy. How early in life were you aware of their story and their relation to you?
Maddox:
My whole life has been a part of the research process for this creation. I’ve know about Millie-Christine for as long as I can recall. My mother had an old pamphlet about them, but she would tell their story frequently throughout my childhood as I suppose her mother told her. They were her (my grandmother’s) aunts.

millie_and_christine_mckoy_by_fitzgibbon_1867Midwest BSFA: Do *you* see a connection between science fiction and oppression (specifically the oppression of those on the African diaspora)? If so, what does that look like to you?
Maddox: I see science fiction as another way to talk about many things, including oppression, thinking outside the box and empowering us with creative solutions. In fact, I’m not sure I actually believe in science fiction. Many things that were not yet understood used to be called science fiction. So I’m sure I believe and not-yet-proven science. Whether or not something is fiction is a matter of research and discovery.

Midwest BSFA: Anything else you want to tell us?
Maddox: Thank you for doing this interview. I’m really excited to share this here in Cincinnati first before taking it to the rest of the world. The next shows after the February world premiere will take place in France and Italy, and that’s just the beginning.

“A Dance Between Dana Franklin and Millie-Christie.” Discussion starts at 6 p.m., performance starts at 8 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 18, Chase Public, 1569 Chase Ave., Northside (Cincinnati, OH 45223). Donations welcome.

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