CATALYST SERIES There Are Other Worlds

Free Black Dirt and Intermedia Arts present
There Are Other Worlds
Written & Directed by Junauda Petrus
Performances: March 19 – 21, 2015 | Thursday-Saturday | 7:30PM
March 21 Matinee | Saturday | 2:30PM

There Are Other Worlds tells the story of Amri Akenyemi, a mother, Black activist, struggling yogi and a woman serving fifteen years in a maximum security prison for a crime of passion. This beautiful production, written by Junauda Petrus, uses aerial arts, poetry, and movement to embody Amri’s journey of healing her broken relationship with her teenage daughters.

“The play reflects on themes echoing through our current reality and societal questioning of justice, race, love, humanity, divinity, protection, healing, and freedom,” says Playwright Junauda Petrus.

Set in the year 1999, There Are Other Worlds utilizes hip-hop and jazz music, the vertical landscape of aerial arts, and an all woman of color cast, to tell a tale that is both complicated and deeply integrated into the fabric of our society. There Are Other Worlds’ soundscape will be done by locally bred and nationally renowned singer/songwriter and emcee Sarah White. Featuring moving performances by a a dynamic castThere Are Other Worlds is an homage to rich friendships, motherhood, the Black Liberation Struggle, and caring for one another’s spirits.

The inaugural project of Free Black Dirt, the art collective founded by Junauda Petrus and Erin SharkeyThere Are Other Worlds first premiered to sold out audiences at Open Eye Theatre in 2012. There Are Other Worlds raises deep questions about the true meaning of justice in the era of the Prison Industrial Complex.

“I am so grateful to be doing this piece now at Intermedia Arts. The timing is so ripe and the subject matter is so huge,” Petrus said. “The process of creating this piece has been intense and beautiful. The deeper I journey in it, the more I am forced to examine the intricate ways that this growing and pervasive institution is impacting individual lives, families, communities and definitively the soul of our country. The more I have researched and had conversations around the topic, the more I have learned of the system’s long and complicated reach and felt the need to learn even more – from its philosophical and social roots to its current manifestation.”


“The entire cast are women of color and the power and beauty present in this play comes from that root and love of Black Women. That the rest of us are invited to witness and imbibe is a gift and we are all stronger for it.”
Ellen Hinchcliffe’s Review

“The story in There Are Other Worlds centers on a black woman who has been locked in prison for nine years. She had been a black activist who studied yoga, and was very politically involved. The woman has two teen daughters, and their relationship has deteriorated. Petrus wanted to explore how families figure out healing when there’s distance created.”
Sheila Regan’s CityPages interview with Junauda Petrus

“There Are Other Worlds, with an all women of color cast, is a story of family, love, and empowerment. By weaving in tales of an incarcerated mother and friendships between women of color, this piece seeks to critique the prison industrial complex as well as highlight the complex beauty of human relationships.”
Sam White’s MXDWLL interview with Junauda Petrus


Nisreen Dawan is a Louisiana native, and a Minneapolis Vinyasa and Hot yoga instructor. She occasionally dabbles in herbalism and theater. Her last performances were the past production onThere Are Other Worlds at Open Eye Figure Theatre and as a Liberian female soldier in Eclipsed presented by Frank Theatre in Minneapolis. Nisreen plays Amri Akenyemi.

ShaVunda Horsley is a 2012 alumnus of the University of Minnesota’s B.F.A. Guthrie Theater Actor Training Program. She professionally debuted with Penumbra Theater inThe Amen Corner at The Guthrie Theater. She has since been seen at Open Eye Figure Theater, Gremlin Theater, Pillsbury House Theater, The Fringe Festival, Frank Theater at The Southern, and most recently at Bedlam Theater in Beaverdance; A Marxist Furtrade Holiday Musical and will next perform in Black Bitch a one woman show she has developed herself. She is the Poetry Slam Winner of The 2010 Farrago Freshers’ Slam at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London and is one half of the duo that won the 2010 Peace Fest and Hip Hop Competition in Dallas, Texas. ShaVunda is excited to be apart of this thrilling cast and crew who are feeding her soul and bringing to life very important issues.  ShaVunda plays Dreamah Akenyemi

Alissa Paris, a performance artist, choreographer, and youth advocate from the West Bank of Minneapolis, recognizes the power in the intersections of performance art and social justice. Since 2007 she has performed with Epitome-No Question, a dance company that synthesizes hip-hop styles made popular in the New Jack Swing Era with West African dance. A self-proclaimed “Fly Girl”, she frequently performs as a singer and dancer locally alongside other Twin Cities talents. She has nine years experience as a frequent guest artist & hip-hop dance instructor in twin cities schools & parks. Paris has supported the Black Box Theater Program at Washburn High School since 2009. She received her B.A. in dance, theater, and social justice in 2010 from the University of Minnesota. She has presented her dance choreography at local venues such as Intermedia Arts, Patrick’s Cabaret & at the MN Pride Festival, to name a few. In the winter of 2013 she joined actress, playwright & poet Shá Cage in “N.I.G.G.E.R”, a look at the history of the “N” word, featuring movement by Paris. In 2014 she co-facilitated a workshop titled “Care for Creatives” at the Giant Steps Conference at the Minneapolis Convention Center, & helped organize the 2nd Annual Twin Cities Social Justice Education Fair. She loves to spend her free time writing, reading books that inform healing, & hanging out on her grandmother’s small goat farm. Alissa plays Sarya Rice.

Felicia Perry has been designing, creating and selling custom clothing since 2007.  She is the owner of feeperella, an independent retailer located in North Minneapolis. Felicia is returning to the stage after a long hiatus to play the role of Gospel Akenyemi.There Are Other Worlds will mark her first performance with aerial and being apart of this production has been an eye opening and fulfilling experience for her.

Junauda Petrus is a playwright, aerialist, dancer, soul-sweetener and creator. Combining the ritual of theatre with the art of aerial, Junauda calls the stories, sayings, ideas, fears and triumphs that live in psychic memory and dwells in spirits and give it a home on the visceral landscape of the body and space. She reflects primarily on the modern Black reality and its complexities, its light, shadow, heart and soul, humanity and through her art she makes an offering for healing. She and Erin Sharkey are the Co­Founders of Free Black Dirt. They are creators and writers. They seek to develop work that is opening, inspiring, challenging AND good feeling. Free Black Dirt seeks to spark and engage in critical conversations. Junauda wrote and is directing There Are Other Worlds.

Erin Sharkey is a prose poet, essayist, educator, and graphic designer, passionate about creating events and spaces where community and art are vital. Erin is a co-founder of Free Black Dirt, an artist collective committed to creating original theater and performance, hosting innovative events, organizing local artists, and promoting and supporting the emerging artists’ community in the Twin Cities. Free Black Dirt seeks to spark and engage in critical conversations. Erin is currently pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing at Hamline University. You can visit her at  Erin is the producer for There Are Other Worlds.

Sarah White is a singer, emcee and soundscape designer and has played both nationally and internationally, best known in Minneapolis for her work with Shiro Dame, Black Blondie and Traditional Methods. Sarah has independently released 2 solo albums, her voice is featured on record label releases from the Midwest to Tokyo and she won Scion’s Best Electronic Vocalist Competition in 2009. Currently the Music Resident at Public Functionary, a music contributor to BlackGirlInOM and creating the sound scape for the play There Are Other Worlds, Sarah is steady, focused and continually challenging her growth and process. Sarah is also a mother of two, a photographer and a creative with a Minneapolis-based event production company.

Free Black Dirt is artistic partnership formed by Minneapolis-based collaborators, Junauda Petrus and Erin Sharkey. Committed to creating original theatre and performance, hosting innovative events, organizing local artists, and promoting and supporting the emerging artists’ community in the Twin Cities, Free Black Dirt seeks to spark and engage in critical conversations.  Junauda Petrus is a writer and Black aerialist and performer and ragamuffin and gardener and a cosmic bag lady and has a gap in her teeth. Erin Sharkey is a prose poet, essayist, educator and graphic designer, passionate about creating events and spaces where community and art can live.

There Are Other Worlds is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.
This project is also made possible by the very generous support of all of the awesome, brilliant, and limitless young people of Loring Nicollet Alternative School.