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The sixth work in “the denzel series,” exploring black masculine identity in performance from a queer trans-masculine perspective
305 backers pledged $8,429 to help bring this project to life.

About

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This January 30th, I am excited to present the World Premiere of my newest work, i shot denzel, at New York Live Arts in Manhattan NYC, this January 30th - February 1st. 

so that I can fully realize this final and pivotal work in the series, and pay my amazing team of collaborators and performers for their incredible work.

A culmination of almost 4 years of work on “the denzel series,” i shot denzel is the sixth and potentially final work in the series--a solo where I am joined onstage by nine musicians and singers. ‘denzel has represented black masculine identity in performance, as seen from my perspective as a queer trans-masculine identified young black person. I’m working with many ideas that continue to interest me such as death, grieving through sound experiences, original philosophical text, voguing, and fear. Exploring these avenues in my work has been educational in terms of answering larger questions for myself; ‘how do I navigate being transgender in dance? Identifying as black in dance? Identifying as queer in dance? And not always be defiant or “challenging”’? I am interested in creating space and visibility for myself and others who identify similarly. The topics that remain challenged in i shot denzel are normativity, complacency, and impossibility.

For i shot denzel, I’ve created a monologue in the first-person as the voice of denzel (played by myself), accompanied by a rendition of Stravinsky’s Le Sacre Du Printempts. In this piece I am asking the question “How am I like denzel in performance?” while simultaneously attempting to “end" the life of denzel via an abstract “virgin sacrifice.’ In past denzels, I have worked with my friends, lovers, and family to create a self-portrait. The idea for this new work is to strip the work of other presences and create a “physically challenging” solo on my own body. Exploring the performance of “blackness” within the context of contemporary or classical movement. Creating this solo could be somewhat of a breakthrough for the vocabulary, questions, and ideas I’ve been developing through the entire series of the work. However, the “end” of an era within the denzel lineage and what could simultaneously be a re-birth of a new.

I am excited to introduce my amazingly talented team of musicians. Composer & Pianist, Jo Pang recently transplanted from St. Louis has been working closely with me and the gang on executing a beautiful melodic and nothing short of melodramatic cover of Camilo Sesto's song, El Amor De Mi Vida. More than pleased to announce my mother, Yessenia Acosta who will be singing lead vocals. She will be accompanied by my incredibly wonderful back up singers, Lydia Berg-Hammond and Caitlin Marz. On Tuba and Baritone Horn we have Gary Zema, my High School dance teacher's husband of many decades. Two new friends on Alto Saxaphone, Amy Gall & Aleksei Wagner. The more than talented Lee Free on Drum Set and Glockenspiel. Last but absolutely not least, Julia Read playing Violin. 

The denzel series developed from my interest in Denzel Washington as a black male actor in what I consider to be mainstream media. The roles he’s played create an interesting tension between typecast and empowering, and I feel his presence in film can be quite radical. He, along with Morgan Freeman, Terrance Howard, and Samuel Jackson, etc., inhabit a space in the American perception of the black male. In my perspective, Denzel is an archetype for black masculinity in media, and how that masculinity is perceived.

As I have explored my male identity and gender, I have considered the many characters Denzel has inhabited as something to either lean into or fight against. My identity feels more complex than words, but his presence allows context.

'The denzel series' is comprised of six performance works: denzel, denzel prelude, denzel superstructure, denzel again (which was performed at New York Live Arts as part of their Fresh Tracks residency), denzel mini petite bathtub happymeal, and my newest work, i shot denzel.

Throughout the series, the six works have gone from exploring identity/sexuality/gender to biographically paying homage to my very personal and sometimes familial relationships to a representation of black masculinity in performance. I have explored these thoughts with voguing, creating literature specifically for performance, singing pop songs, collaborating with a good friend who identifies also as a queer black man, inviting my mother to perform, and a plethora of movement explorations studying failure and impossibility and how it can be empowering. Throughout the denzel series it’s become clear there is a non-linear progression happening in and outside of the work. The evolution is not married to a narrative, but rather the maturity of the work through time.

Please feel free to visit my website here and take a look at my previous denzels on my vimeo page.

Our over all goal to see this project to completion is $10,500.00. If you are interested in making a %100 tax deductible donation please feel free to contact me at niv@nivacosta.com to discuss further.  

This work means the world to me, and my cast and I would be so grateful for your support. To thank you, we’ve put together an incredible roster of prizes, ranging from music from the piece, to original art, to an invite to a huge Dominican feast we’ll be throwing to celebrate. Anything you can donate—be it $5, $50, or $500 will make all the difference in helping us realize this final work in the series!

lavendar limp phallus crocheted by niv Acosta
lavendar limp phallus crocheted by niv Acosta
photos by Steve May
photos by Steve May

This original crocheted limp phallus is one of 10 phalluses crafted in support of this project. These one of a kind phalluses are machine washable, hypo-allergenic, and not to mention a topic a conversation. Thoughts behind creating these phalluses were to make room for a fun and non-aesthetic-confining packer. These phalluses are meant as an alternative to a sock or silicone based, often times "skin toned", packers for people who like to pack a bulge and enjoy fun colors. The limp phalluses are available as commissioned pieces as well.

Check out the original series below...

photo by Gabriel Rivera
photo by Gabriel Rivera
"viva la vida rosa" painting by Yessenia Acosta
"viva la vida rosa" painting by Yessenia Acosta
"surreal dreams of home" by Yessenia Acosta
"surreal dreams of home" by Yessenia Acosta

Yessenia Acosta, niv's biological mother, is a painter, singer, cook and performer born and bred in Dominican Republic and New York City. Yessenia's paintings are inspired by music and the magical landscapes of the D.R.. You can see Yessenia perform as lead singer in the Premiere of "i shot denzel" at New York Live Arts in January.

Photos by Nicole Whelan of Interrupt Magazine
Video by Nina Macintosh 
with a contribution of clips from: Lani Rodriguez

Risks and challenges

Once the project is funded we will be having more rehearsals. We will then enter into an intensive technical residency where we will be loading in instruments, set elements, and plotting lights and sound for the show. We will run the piece in it’s entirety possibly for the first time with everyone present, pulling costumes together and fine tuning transitions. I, along with Tess Dworman, will be installing a projection of a video of our processes presented in split screen fashion in the lobby of New York Live Arts. There will also be a merchandise table for donors to pick up their prizes and for audience members interested in buying keepsakes.

On the administrative tip, I along with my project manager and group of generous friends will be sending invites, publicizing the show via social media and private emails, leaving postcard in as many locations around the city as possible, as we attempt to reach the largest audience the denzel series has ever had.

We know that there will still be a lot of work left to do, but we know if we can reach our 8K goal with this project that we'll have the capacity and energy to make it happen!

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    The Don Cheadle: THANK YOU! All donors to this project will be thanked by name on facebook and in the show's program

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    The Terrance Howard: A download of one track from 'i shot denzel'

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    The Samuel L. Jackson: A download of our full album of music from 'i shot denzel"

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    The Forest Whitaker: A print of our limited-edition "i shot denzel" poster

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    The Bernie Mac: Join us for a Dominican Feast with the cast to celebrate the show!

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    The Spike Lee: A private drum lesson with our drummer Lee Free. Lee has worked with the band MEN with J.D. Samson and Circus Amok! amongst many other projects/bands including his own!

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    The Damon Wayans: Receive an original one of a kind, personalized haiku from one our Sax players, Amy Gall, who also happens to be a brilliant writer.

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    The Morgan Freeman: 4 hours of child care, provided by performer Caitlin Marz

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    The James Earl Jones: niv will sing you a personalized thank you telegram on ukulele

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    The Taye Diggs: You'll receive our limited-edition "i shot denzel" poster, a personalized thank you singing telegram on ukulele from niv, and you'll score an invitation to our Dominican feast!

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    The Djimon Hounsou: You'll receive a hand-crafted textile limp phallus, designed and crafted by niv Acosta.

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    The Nick Cannon: A personalized song, with your name included, created by one of our very own vocalist Lydia Berg-Hammond.

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    The LL Cool J: A private lesson with our violinist Julia Read.

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    The Wesley Snipes: You'll recieve an original painting by Yessenia Acosta

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    The Sidney Portier: To thank you for your major support of this work, we'll invite you and a friend to an intimate open rehearsal of the work, and you'll receive a limited-edition "i shot denzel" poster signed by the entire cast.

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    The Laurence Fishburne: To thank you for your major support of this work, we'll invite you to come to a tech rehearsal of the work at New York Live Arts, and niv will give you a tour of the theater. Additionally, we'll invite you and a friend to an intimate open rehearsal of the work, and you'll receive a limited-edition "i show denzel" poster signed by the entire cast.

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    The Charles Dutton: To thank you for your major support of this work, niv will join you and a friend for drinks any evening of your choice. Additionally, we'll invite you to a tech rehearsal of the work to tour the theater, to an intimate open rehearsal of the work, and you'll receive a limited-edition "i show denzel" poster signed by the entire cast.

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    Pledge $5,000 or more About $5,000

    The Harry Belafonte: To thank you for your major support of this work, you will be credited as the work's Associate Producer. Additionally, we'll invite you to a tech rehearsal of the work to tour the theater, to an intimate open rehearsal of the work, niv will take you and a friend out for drinks, and you'll receive a limited-edition "i show denzel" poster signed by the entire cast.

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    The Denzel: To thank you for your major support of this work, you will be credited as the work's Producer. Additionally, we'll invite you to a tech rehearsal of the work to tour the theater, to an intimate open rehearsal of the work, niv will take you and a friend out for drinks, and you'll receive a limited-edition "i show denzel" poster signed by the entire cast.

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Funding period

- (32 days)