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Building A Better Fishtrap / from the river’s mouth

June 24, 2018 at Starlight Park, The Bronx River

Images by Erik Carter

Building a Better Fishtrap / from the river’s mouth is a performance ritual that honors and embodies the stories and spirit of the Bronx River. Created through collaboration with dozens of artists and community members, the work takes audiences by boat on a 1.5-mile stretch of the once embattled waterway; along the way, passengers encounter kaleidoscopic installations that draw from the river’s rich past and present, as well as hopes for her future. The boats have been piloted by docents from Bronx-based partner organizations.

Three riverside parks in the South Bronx served as spaces for creative research. They are part of the last decade of revitalization along the waterway and mark significant, locally-driven progress in cleaning up the beleaguered waterway. Hunts Point Riverside Park, at the south end of the installation, was one of the earliest wins for community organizers pushing for public access to the river – after more than 60 years in which industry monopolized the water’s edge and turned the river into an open sewer. Starlight Park, on the north end, represents the most recent round of development allowing public access.

During the development process, McGregor and collaborators conducted interviews with Bronx-based historians, artists and activists; engaged Bronx communities (including Bronx House’s After School Program and the seniors at Bronx Senior Center) through artistic workshops that provide a platform to unearth their histories; and joined public environmental efforts on the river, such as water quality testing. This research – as well as the embodied experience of the river itself – served as the foundation for devising this live, interactive performance on and along the water.

  • Conceived and Directed by Paloma McGregor
  • Created in collaboration with performers Jaimé Yawa Dzandu, Audrey Elaine Hailes, Oceana James, Christine King, Jessica Lee, Stephanie Mas, Nina Angela Mercer, Alethea Pace, Joya Powell, Erica Saucedo
  • Special guest performance by Bethania Griffin
  • Text and Dramaturgy by Nina Angela Mercer
  • Costumes by Paloma McGregor, Tina Vasquez and the Performers
  • Scenic Design by Paloma McGregor, Sara Jimenez and the Performers
  • Sound Design by Keith Obadike
  • Lighting Design by Emma Rivera
  • Production Stage Manager: Emma Rivera
  • Technical Director: Pope Jackson
  • Project Advisor: Damian Griffin
  • Assistant Stage Managers: Kelindah Bee Schuster, Manny Rivera
  • Production Assistants: Anthony Fernandez, Sean Fox, Jr., Noah Wertheimer
  • Volunteers: Rodney Cobb, Patrick St Pierre, Maria Bauman, Susan Hamburger, Timothy Edwaujonte, Martin Spasov, Guisella Harrell, María Patricia Slee, Melanie Greene, Brianna Taylor, Kayla Hamilton, Iyanna Whitely, Dr. Janelle C Simmons, Sydnie Mosley, mayfield brooks, Andre Zachery, Courtney Cooke, Ni’Ja Whitson, Carl Hewitt, Alicia Racquel, Brenda Dowdell, Kendall Artis

Bronx Presenting Partners

The Bronx River Alliance serves as a coordinated voice for the river and works in harmonious partnership to protect, improve and restore the Bronx River corridor so that it can be a healthy ecological, recreational, educational and economic resource for the communities through which the river flows. The Alliance works in close partnership with the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation to achieve these goals.

Rocking The Boat logo

Rocking the Boat empowers young people from the South Bronx to develop the self-confidence to set ambitious goals and gain the skills necessary to achieve them. Students work together to build wooden boats, learn to row and sail, and restore local urban waterways, revitalizing their community while creating better lives for themselves. Kids don’t just build boats, boats build kids.

Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice (YMPJ)

Guided by a prophetic faith, Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice’s (YMPJ) purpose is to transform both the people and the physical infrastructure of blighted South Bronx neighborhoods and change the systems that negatively impact them. Founded in 1994, the mission of YMPJ is to rebuild the neighborhoods of Bronx River and Soundview/Bruckner in the South Bronx by preparing young people to become prophetic voices for peace and justice. They accomplish this through political education, spiritual formation, and youth and community development and organizing.

The creation of Building a Better Fishtrap / From the River’s Mouth was supported by The MAP Fund, primarily supported by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation with additional funds from the Andrew. W. Mellon Foundation, and a commission from New York Live Arts’ Live Feed Residency program with additional support from the Joseph and Joan Cullman Foundation for the Arts, the Mertz Gilmore Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council with special thanks to Council Member Corey Johnson, the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, the Jerome Robbins Foundation, the Fan Fox & Leslie R. Samuels Foundation, the Scherman Foundation, and the Shubert Foundation.

Audrey Elaine Hailes is a dance-theatre artist raised in Washington DC. Interested in public performance as a tool of wellness Hailes is a teaching artist, performer with the Dance Cartel and co-host of the women-run radio show Hip Hop and Her Family. Her choreography was recently commissioned by Gibney Dance and Dance Theatre Etc.

Oceana James is a New York (via St. Croix) interdisciplinary artist. In her work, she is interested in deconstructing the idea of language and experiments with the use of time, space and movement. Her solo, For Gowie: The Deceitful Fellow, has been at Dixon Place and on St. Croix at the Take 5 art festival. She will be showing it later this month at The Brick, in their This Is Not Normal: An Arts and Activism Festival and will also be showing it in Denmark and Germany later in the year. Oceana has worked on Building a Better Fishtrap on St. Croix and has most recently performed in Sibyl Kempson’s 12 Shouts to the Ten Forgotten Heavens. Oceana has MFA in theatre from Sarah Lawrence College.

Christine King spent 20+ years in New York as part of the core performing company of Urban Bush Women, where she had the gift and pleasure of performing with Paloma McGregor. Since 2012, King has been in a performing, development [receiving and giving] relationship with McGregor’s Building A Better Fishtrap, and is honored to have been in the premiere performance at Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance (2015). King currently lives in Indiana/Illinois, and has contributed vocals (“the live band”) to the sound score for the University of Illinois Dance Department (November 2013) dance series. In April 2014, King performed in a collaborative movement & sound project with Kirstie Simson (U of I), Darrell Jones (Columbia College), other movers, instrumentalists, and a few (U of I) engineers. In Fall 2014, she was a collaborator on a community engagement performing project with Dance Exchange. She is thrilled to be in New York and performing in this iteration of BBFT!

Jessica Lee is a dance and teaching artist, arts administrator and organizer tethered to Brooklyn and Vermont. Born right before a snowstorm in Denver, Colorado, and raised in Connecticut near Long Island Sound, water has often shaped her “home.” Lee swam into the Fishtrap in October 2010 when Paloma was a guest artist at her alma mater, Middlebury College, and has since grown inside as a collaborator, performer, production assistant, marketing organizer, childcare provider, and witness. Dedicated to community-based art and education, Lee is a member of the PURPOSE Productions team, Brooklyn Arts Exchange faculty, and co-director of The Sable Project, an off-grid artist residency in central Vermont.

Stephanie Mas is an artist and performer that resides in Brooklyn, NY. Mas has had the honor of collaborating and performing for and with Paloma McGregor since January 2009. She is grateful to be back and inside of Fishtrap and continuing to look forward to the many questions, memories, and re-callings that the work pulls out of everyone it touches.

Nina Angela Mercer is a multi-disciplinary artist. Her plays include GUTTA BEAUTIFUL; RACING MY GIRL, SALLY; ITAGUA MEJI: A Road & A Prayer; GYPSY & THE BULLY DOOR; SLIM POCKET PLAYS (a collection of short plays), and MOTHER WIT & WATER BORN. She is currently developing BETWEEN WHISPERED BLOOD-LINES, the first in a trilogy of plays. Her work has been shared at the Warehouse Theatre, The Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company for DC’s Fringe Festival, Rutgers University, Brecht Forum, National Black Theatre, The Nuyorican Poets’ Café, Abrons Arts Center/Henry Street Settlement, Classical Theatre of Harlem,The Little Carib Theatre, and other venues. Her writing is published in The Killens Review of Arts & Letters, Black Renaissance Noire, Voices Magazine #SayHerName Edition, among other upcoming publications. She is co-founder and co-director of Ocean Ana Rising ( Nina is a doctoral fellow of Theatre and Performance at The Graduate Center-CUNY. She teaches at Brooklyn College. More info at

Damian Griffin (moderator) is a father of two who lives with his wife in the Bronx where he is a bilingual educator in the NYC public school system and an adjunct at City College. Damian became involved in the project while working with the Bronx River Alliance and served as a liaison between Paloma, the dancers, the community and the river and helped develop a series of walks with the support of iLand. Building a Better Fishtrap and its themes of memory and migration took a deep hold on him as, during the project, his father, Thomas Griffin, was in the late stages of Alzheimer’s and memory, how it comes and goes, became a daily part of life.

Erica Saucedo (project manager) was born in Austin, Texas to Patricia and Edgar Saucedo. She is a movement artist, collaborating with visionaries Paloma McGregor, Johnnie Cruise Mercer, Indah Walsh, and is the co-founder of vis-á-vis dances–alongside partner, Kaitlyn Bishop. Erica serves the world by creating space for processes of reflection and expression, whether through art-making, administrative assistance, or facilitated engagement. She is a Community Actionist with Gibney Dance’s youth program, Hands are for Holding.

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