The Toni Morrison Project

FRIDAY, MARCH 24 & SATURDAY MARCH 25, 2023 at 8:00PM

VENUE Berlind Rehearsal Room


Multi-disciplinary Artists Mame Diarra Samantha Speis & Daniel Alexander Jones, along with their collaborators welcome you into a living ritual, as a witness & as a participant. Sourced from their respective performance & devotional practices, there will be elements of spontaneous duet alongside pointed solos and congregational voicing. 

In the spirit of the great artist for whom the work is made, Spies and Jones venture to the edges to listen for the voices, rich and fertile, asking us to risk seeing ourselves, our histories, and our presence anew. 

Audiences are invited to this first-look of original commissioned performances - unique works-in-progress that are the result of collaborations between Associate Artistic Director and curator Nicole A. Watson, and Autumn Womack, curator of the exhibition Toni Morrison: Sites of Memory and assistant professor of English and African American Studies at Princeton University. These sharings are part of a robust calendar of the campus-wide programming celebrating the acclaimed author Toni Morrison’s (1931–2019) life and legacy.  

The artists visited the University’s Toni Morrison Papers archive, a large trove of personal papers, letters, manuscripts and objects that were acquired by the university in 2014 to inspire their original creations.  

The performances will be presented in McCarter’s intimate Berlind Theater Rehearsal Studio. Space is Limited.


About the Exhibition

“Toni Morrison: Sites of Memory,” which opens at Princeton University Library's Milberg Gallery on February 22, 2023 (through June 4, 2023), will anchor a series of programs that include an art exhibition at the Princeton University Art Museum’s Art@Bainbridge with the renowned artist Alison Saar; newly commissioned performances responding to Morrison’s work presented by McCarter Theatre and Princeton University Concerts; a landmark three-day symposium that brings together over thirty writers and artists to reflect on Morrison’s relationship to the archive; public tours of Sites of Memory; children’s programming; a spring lecture series; and undergraduate courses on Morrison’s work.


These performances speak to the collaborative and interdisciplinarity ethos of Morrison’s practice. They prove that the Morrison papers continue to inspire artists and makers as her work has always done.

Autumn Womack


This performance is not Choice Pass eligible.



About The Artists


Mame Diarra (Samantha) Speis

Mame Diarra (Samantha) Speis

Mame Diarra (Samantha) Speis (she/her), is a mother and movement improviser intrigued with play, risk, rigor, and experimentation. She is currently a performer and the Co-Artistic Director of the critically acclaimed Urban Bush Women. Speis has had the pleasure of working with Gesel Mason, The Dance Exchange, Jumatatu Poe, Deborah Hay (as part of the Sweet Day curated by Ralph Lemon at the MoMA), Baba Israel, Marjani Forte-Saunders, and Liz Lerman. In 2021, she performed as a guest artist with MBDance in the Motherboard Suite with artist Saul Williams, under the direction of Bill T. Jones. Speis was the recipient of the Alvin Ailey New Directions Choreography Lab and was awarded a Bessie for Outstanding Performer in 2017. Mame Diarra’s work has been featured at the Kennedy Center, Long Island University, Joyce SoHo, Hollins University, BAAD, Danspace Project, BAM, Dixon Place, BRIC, Dance Place, and The Kelly Strayhorn Theater. Speis has developed a movement and teaching practice that explores pelvic mobility as the root of powerful locomotion and as a point of connection to the stories, experiences and lineages that reside in each of us. She has been a guest artist and teacher throughout the U.S., South America, Senegal, and Europe. Speis has also taught at Princeton University and Montclair State University as a Lecturer in Dance. She has been fortunate to continue building a strong relationship with her alma mater, Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), in various capacities and was the commencement speaker for the VCUArts graduating class of 2020-2021. In recent years, Mame Diarra has co-choreographed multiple new works with Jawole Willa Jo Zollar in collaboration with the UBW Dance Company, along with co-choreographing Cannabis: A Viper Vaudeville, created by Baba Israel and directed by Talvin Wilks. Speis is currently developing UBW’s new work Haint Blu with Chanon Judson, Co-Artistic Director of UBW, and is excited to premiere the site responsive piece in 2023.

Daniel Alexander Jones

Daniel Alexander Jones

30 years into his distinctive interdisciplinary art practice Daniel Alexander Jones is respected by audiences, colleagues and critics. His projects include: ALTAR NO. 1: ATEN (, a music, video and contemplative site (CalArts Center for New Performance & New York Live Arts); BLACK LIGHT (Public Theater); DUAT (Soho Rep); and PHOENIX FABRIK (Pillsbury House Theatre). 53rd State Press recently published LOVE LIKE LIGHT, a collection of 7 works from across Jones’s career, featuring introductory essays from a range of collaborators and colleagues; as well as the book PARTICLE & WAVE, a contextualizing conversation with Dr. Alexis Pauline Gumbs about Jones’s practice. Daniel was honored as the 2021 PEN America/Laura Pels Foundation awardee in Theatre, and was praised for “perfecting a dramaturgy all his own based in the traditions of Africana studies, performance studies, queer theory, and mysticism, challenging established traditions while creating space for audiences to ponder what theater is and who it is for." Jones is a TED Fellow, a Guggenheim Fellow, a Doris Duke Artist, a USA Artist Fellow, a Creative Capital Grantee, and has been commissioned by the McCarter Theatre and the Public Theatre among others. He has taught at university for 20 years, most recently as a Full Professor at Fordham University. Daniel received an IDEA Award for Theatre in 2022 from the Bret and Paul Foundation. Jomama Jones, Daniel’s performance “altar-ego” has been celebrated for years for her numerous concerts, performance and theatre pieces, and 6 albums, including Radiate, Flowering, and Anew. Daniel lives in Los Angeles, where he is a Producing Artist for the Center for New Performance at CalArts, and is in residence with UCLA’s Center for the Art of Performance. He will release, as Jones, Daniel, a full length solo album, AQUARIUS in 2023. A microsite of the first single from the album, “The Hanged Man” was presented as part of OSF’s QUILLS fest in 2022.



About the Curator


Nicole A. Watson

Nicole A. Watson

Nicole A. Watson is the Associate Artistic Director at McCarter. Previously she was the Associate Artistic Director at Round House Theatre. On behalf of both theaters, she created the Adrienne Kennedy Festival in which she directed a digital version of Kennedy’s He Brought Her Heart Back in a Box. As part of her work at McCarter, she co-curates Bard at the Gate with Paula Vogel. In addition to her work as an arts leader, Nicole continues to work as a freelance director and educator.


Rehearsal of Daniel Alexander Jones’s piece Black Light. 

Photograph courtesy of the artist


This event is part of the New Jersey Theatre Alliance 2023 Stages Festival, made possible by support from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, a partner agency of the National Endowment for the Arts; The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey; OceanFirst Foundation; Fund for the New Jersey Blind; New Jersey Manufacturers; and Customers Bank.