Universes is an ensemble of multi-disciplined writers and performers who fuse poetry, theater, jazz, hip-hop, politics, down home blues and Spanish boleros to create moving, challenging and entertaining theatrical works. The group breaks the bounds of traditional theater to create their own brand of performance, showcasing the ensemble’s special brand of fusion theater in a “best of” evening that tracks the evolution of their poetic language from childhood rhymes and community rituals to poetry and theater, hip-hop and gospel. Redefining what theater is and to whom it speaks, the ensemble turns the poem into a communal act.
Universes three core members; Steven Sapp, Mildred Ruiz, and Gamal Abdel Chasten; teamed up with critically acclaimed director Jo Bonney in 2002 to create their work Slanguage, a full evening work of text and movement where traditional theater synthesizes with poetry, storytelling, rhythm, music, song and dance. Slanguage was first presented as a workshop production under the working title U at P.S. 122, and continued to develop at New York Theater Workshop, Mark Taper Forum (LA,) and New World Theater (Amherst, MA). Universes has since claimed home bases at New World Theater and Universes’ own Universe City Theater Network (Bronx, NY). Recent work includes Rhythmicity: Flipping the Script, featured at Actors Theater of Louisville’s Humana Festival; Steven Sapp and Mildred Ruiz’ Eyewitness Blues, a jazz-based work produced by New York Theater Workshop; Gamal Chasten’s The Last Word, premiered at Performance Space 122; and an upcoming new work entitled Live and Direct, scheduled to premiere in Spring 2006.