Before COVID-19 hit, Vie Boheme’s singing, dance, and theater career was taking off. She was set to present her one-woman solo show, Centerplay, at the Guthrie Theater in the spring. Then, by adapting, Boheme (named a 2021 Jerome Hill Artist Fellow) and her art prevailed.
Along with a socially distant Cowles Center performance, the Jungle Theater hosted a radio play version of Centerplay. Next, she wrote and starred in a beautiful film about the resilience and strength of Black women called Curious Moon [Face]. “I wanted to create a soft space for Black women to land because we don’t really have any control over what types of imagery we take in at all,” she says. “Black women feel very warm when they see it.” She also connected with folks virtually as a yoga teacher via the Afterdark Yoga series.
You kind of were on fire at the beginning of 2020.
Yeah, I was about to have a full premiere of my one woman show, Centerplay, at the Guthrie. It was a huge deal. And yep, COVID hit, and it was canceled. Just like everybody else’s work. So yeah, it’s a bit of a downer.
You got to re-imagine at least part of Centerplay as a radio play with the Jungle. What was that like?
Yes, the Jungle Theater have a series called Jungle Serial. It was really exciting and strange, especially because Centerplay was so immersive, and it really plays at the viewer’s experience visually. To reformat it for the audio experience has been peculiar and curious now that the sonic experience is paramount.
I chose a scene where my character doesn’t actually speak initially in the original design. She doesn’t speak for at least the first half of the entire scene. She’s a very quiet character. We had to find other ways to express her in this particular format. How many sound effects do I need? Do I need the sound of her footsteps in the kitchen to give them a context of like where we are?
The fun part about this is that I had an idea of how it was designed to happen in the theater. Now I’m having the opportunity to question those decisions and see if there’s other more impactful ways that will carry over to the live experience when that does happen again.
Also in 2020, you created an incredible film video with MMYYKK called “Curious Moon [Face],” with Motionpoems, which speaks to this moment we are in. What were you trying to sort of say with the piece?
I wanted to create a soft space for Black women to land because we don’t really have any control over what types of imagery we take in at all. When you’re scrolling through your phone, when you’re on your computer, whatever the case, if you’re on Facebook, or Instagram, you kind of are bracing yourself because something is probably coming. I just got tired of having to wince every time I scroll through my phone, and the constant images of violence against black people. It’s just so much. Black women and femmes are always on the front lines. I wanted to create pieces that are the eye of the storm in all the chaos.
What has the reaction been?
The reception has been really good. Black women feel very warm when they see it. It’s teaching me another lesson as an art maker coming from a performance background, of keeping a piece of art alive over time. How do we keep talking about this piece? How do we keep bringing it to life, getting it to more people? It was shown at Highpoint Center for Printmaking. We would love to see the piece have a life in more places.
How did you grow as a healer in 2020?
Last year was a doozy. I mean, globally. Even my grandmother said that the things that are going on, she’s never seen before in her life. So to be alive at a moment like this, to find my place in the world in a moment like this is a task.
Moving myself around the world has become an aspect of my identity that I cannot practice right now. Repositioning myself and my identity in a moment in history like this has been—the obvious answer is—a roller coaster ride.
It seemed to me that people were obsessed with moving in a way. They could not sit still. They didn’t want to sit still. People were freaking out after one week of quarantine. They were anxious. So I thought maybe we need to be still. It seems like the least obvious thing, right? Or the hardest thing to do. So I started offering the free in yin yoga workshop classes on a regular basis. Eventually, I offered more fitness-based, or workout yoga things.
And then, we had had a series of murders. I was noticing that whenever this happens in the Twin Cities, because it’s happened repeatedly, the common experience from women and femmes is that we go to the front lines, and we move into activist mode. We hunker down, we end up diminishing or cutting off certain aspects of our humanity so that we can galvanize and pump up our activism and our care and our alertness and awareness for other people. No one was paying attention, in my perspective, to our sensuality, and our sexuality. I would argue that our sensuality and our sexual energy is some of the most powerful energy that we have in our bodies. It’s a loss to not continue to nurture that energy, because we need it, especially now. So that inspired me to offer the Afterdark Yoga series. It’s a fusion a combination of breath work, yoga, and journal sessions to allow people to excavate, and learn about their perspectives about their sexuality What does it mean to cover ourselves or uncover ourselves to be exposed unto yourself?
What about 2021? What are you looking toward to?
It’s a few things. The workshop series that I wanted to blossom is called the Mo Money workshop series for artists. And it is to start a dialogue with artists around how do how do we blossom additional streams of income for ourselves. I’m also working on diversifying my own income streams, including a leadership and personal development program. It’s a very small group—six to eight people. So like that’s what I am working on developing.
Any other creative projects on the horizon?
I’m really interested in continuing to direct video projects. I’m choreographing at the U of M, so I’m in the process of co editing that with the cinematographer. And I like directing, so that’s a huge priority to continue doing in 2021. I’m excited for more video projects, blossoming additional streams of income and helping to share that with the community.