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Immerse yourself in African American history with ‘We Move in Color’

Multimedia show at Strand Theatre for two nights only

Celina Colby
Celina Colby is an arts and travel reporter with a fondness for Russian novels.... VIEW BIO
Immerse yourself in African American history with ‘We Move in Color’
Daysha J. Williams performs in front of a Paul Goodnight immersive image. PHOTO: COURTESY OF WYATT JACKSON

For years, Boston native and Emmy award-winning story designer Wyatt Jackson and writer and executive producer Robby Thomas dreamed of a performance that told the story of African American history in a sweeping, multimedia style.

That story, a visually striking musical revue titled “We Move in Color,” comes to Dorchester’s Strand Theatre this week. 

“We Move in Color” tells the story of African American history from pre-Colonialism through slavery, the Great Migration, the Civil Rights Movement, the birth of hip-hop and into present day, touching many other historical milestones along the way.

“For a long time, African Americans were not in control of their own narratives,” says Thomas. “This is really about saying, ‘Here’s our narrative.’ It’s truthful. It could be bitter, it could be painful. But it’s also elegant, it’s also beautiful.”

Singer Anita Faye performs in front of an image from the Reconstruction scene in ‘We Move in Color.” PHOTO: COURTESY OF WYATT JACKSON

Inspired by immersive installations like “Beyond Van Gogh” that surround visitors with larger-than-life digital images of an artist’s work paired with music, Jackson and Thomas created a similar feeling with large-scale projections of work by locals artists Paul Goodnight and Lou Jones. Jackson says he had seen the early examples of this style in his work with world-renowned pop artists like Keith Haring and Roy Lichtenstein in the 1980s.

“When the Van Gogh exhibits came out, it confirmed that this was the direction that I would like to go in, because I saw, I visualized, this notion of moving images with bodies moving,” says Jackson. “I think it expands the imagination of the audience. And as a story designer, that is very attractive to me, the layers of meaning.”

With music composed by Grammy Award-winner Gen Rubin, movement choreographed by Jackson and narration written by Thomas, this genre-defying performance celebrates an expansive breadth of artistic media as well as history.

The production doesn’t just serve as a piece of art, but as an educational tool. Jackson and Thomas developed a curriculum that uses the performance to address elements of American history. Jackson has lectured and presented demonstrations at the Tufts University Africana Studies Department and at Berklee College of Music’s Center for Music Therapy. He says the curriculum is being used at the Boston Preparatory Charter Public School as well.

Jackson and Thomas say their goal is to take “We Move in Color” on a national tour in 2024, performing the work and acquainting school systems with the curriculum. Bostonians can see the show Oct. 6 and 7 at the Strand Theatre in Uphams Corner.

“The tagline is ‘See and feel the journey,’” says Jackson. “We want people to leave the theater knowing that they have experienced that journey in colorful and positive and powerful ways. And that would lead to inspiration, excitement and a sense of hope.”

arts, black history, film, music, Strand Theatre, We Move in Color