We have all at some point questioned our identity. For some, particularly those at the intersection of multiple marganalized identities, the exploration of who you are or want to be can send you into a tailspin of exploration.

Local playwright, choreographer, and producer, Sisi Reid is choosing to use dance to tell a story of innate joy, love, healing and remembering while questioning and exploring her identity as a Black queer woman. 

“Dance is my freedom, my freeing,” Reid said.

Reid will debut her solo dance-theater performance titled “Rock Paper Scissors” at the Atlas Performing Arts Center as part of her local theatre residency at The REACH at the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts. 

The performance will be presented by Reid’s theater company, Soul Shine Theater Garden, and produced by The Welders, a D.C. theater organization and playwrights collective co-led by Reid, Cat Frost, Teshonne Nicole Powell and Jared Shamberger. 

According to The Kennedy Center’s website, the local theater residency is a curated developmental residency program for local DMV theater companies and playwrights, that seeks those who leverage their artistry to amplify stories that are often overlooked.

Reid, who has spent most of her life in dance and the creative arts, was first intrigued by the idea of identity exploration through games after watching a spoken word performance that used the popular nursery rhyme “Miss Mary Mack” to talk about bisexuality.

“I was like oh, a game to think about identity, that’s cool. I just kind of thought about it,” Reid said.

At the time, Reid was on the path to figuring out how to co-exist with all the ways in which she identified. Then Reid’s alma mater, the University of Maryland, College Park (UMD), invited her to write and perform a 10-minute play for the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center’s Alumni Commissioning Project.

While brainstorming topics for her play,  Reid thought of “Miss Mary Mack” and began to ponder what game she would choose to play as a way to discover and understand herself. 

“I was still deeply conflicted about can I be Black? Woman? Bisexual?” Reid says. “I don’t even know if queer was in my world yet. I felt very conflicted.”

Reid ultimately chose “Rock Paper Scissors” as the game that best reflects her story.

“I asked myself which identity would be which element and how I would play this game if I were playing my identities against each other,” Reid said.

Reid first workshopped her “Rock Paper Scissors” play in Brazil in 2018 during a three-week exchange program with the University of Michigan’s Prison Creative Arts Program, Santa Catarina State University in Florianópolis, Brazil and The Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. 

After returning to the U.S. from Brazil, Reid didn’t spend any time working on the play, which she says basically was writing itself.  

“I was doing more healing and living and existing. The story was writing itself because the play is about my healing journey. So, I was healing and I was growing and I was expanding so I got ideas directly from what I was going through,” Reid said. 

“Rock Paper Scissors” will debut from June 22-25. Tickets can be purchased at the Atlas website starting Feb.13. 

Sisi Reid (Photo by Diyanna Monet)

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