For 22 years, the Festival of Faiths has brought a cornucopia of speakers and artists to Louisville, spreading messages of inclusivity and common goals for all people of goodwill. This year, organizers have announced a series of “Festival After Hours” events that will delve deeper into the festival’s theme: “Sacred Insight, Feminine Wisdom.”
This year’s 23rd annual Festival of Faith runs April 24-28 at the Kentucky Center for the Arts. Guest speakers include local and national artists including Diane Rehm of NPR, Mary Berry, Becca Stevens, Pat McCabe, Lyla June Johnston, Maiden Radio‘s Julia Purcell and many more.
Each “After Hours” event is organized around a specific idea, boiled down to a single imperative word — listen, emerge and honor.
Insider spoke with Louisville poet, spoken-word artist and activist Hannah L. Drake, who was chosen, along with choreographer, dancer and business owner Safiyyah Rasool to curate “Emerge!,” which will be held on Thursday, April 26.
Drake has worked for the festival for several years and took on curatorial duties for a portion of last year’s event. Her approach to “Emerge!” spun off from one of the many topics the festival is tackling in 2018.
“They are certainly going to cover addiction, since the opioid crisis is so big in the U.S., particularly in Kentucky, West Virginia, eastern Kentucky, even Louisville,” says Drake.
Conceptualizing addiction as a kind of darkness, Drake chose several works that tackled addiction and other difficult topics.
“There are these different ‘dark’ issues, like addiction and racism and politics,” she says. “You can’t have an evening and not address politics now.”
But darkness is only one half of “Emerge!”
“I thought, OK, how about we do a night of emerging from darkness to light? And how do we move through that darkness to the other side,” she explains. “So that is my focus, and we’re doing that with dance and singing and poetry.”
Originally rooted in the world of spoken word, Drake is excited to continue to combine poetry elements with movement and dance, an experiment she began working on in a recent creative project with Louisville Ballet.
“I wanted to put as many of those components together as I could,” she says. “When I worked with the ballet, I saw how music, dance and poetry were good by themselves but just phenomenal when you put all three of them together to tell a story.”
Drake says she got a really clear image of that story before the curation process even began, which is similar to what happens when she composes solo works.
“It sounds silly, but I can see it and hear it all in my head — immediately. I knew who I wanted, I knew the music I wanted,” she adds. “Anytime I write poetry or put something together, I tell people I can see it like puzzle pieces in my head. So I hope the puzzle comes together.”
Despite a strong vision, Drake was willing to make alterations in order to engage the creativity and experience of her performers.
“Of course I asked the people singing, do you have suggestions, because you might know a song I don’t know, and some of them did,” she says. “And they fit beautifully with the entire program.”
The poets mostly will perform pre-existing works from their repertoires. Drake says, though she composed it previously, she’s never publicly performed her work.
“It’s a poem about addiction that I never recited anywhere,” she says. “I wrote this poem about my sister being an addict. Now my sister is clean. I told her, ‘I won’t recite this poem ever if you don’t want people to know this story,’ and she said, ‘It doesn’t matter to me if it will help someone.’”
You can catch “Emerge!” on Thursday, April 26, at 7 p.m., and you can take in the rest of the “Festival After Hours” programs “Listen!” and “Honor!” on Wednesday, April 25, and Friday, April 27, respectively.