Harlem Stage to Host “Holding it Down: the Veterans’ Dream Project”


Photo by Vaughn Browne

There’s something important going on at Harlem Stage Gatehouse on September 19th – 22nd:  Holding it Down:  the Veterans’ Dreams ProjectBrilliant pianist and Harlem resident Vijay Iyer is collaborating with producer and poet Mike Ladd to deliver a multi-media experience about stories from veterans of color who fought in the recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Holding it Down: the Veterans’ Dream Project is the third in a trilogy of works by the two artists that took on a life of its own after 9/11.  Vijay and Mike had been working on a project in spring of 2001.   In What Language?  was originally a series of conversations/songs with people of color in airports.  By the time of its release in 2003, it became a response to what had become the War on Terror.  In 2006, the next installment, Still Life with Commentator spoke to the packaging of the wars, how they were presented to those of us safely removed from the realities faced by those who actually fought.  By 2009 Mike was interviewing people of color who had served in the wars.  The conversations addressed in the current piece often lead to sleep and dreaming; how these folks suffer PTSD and other symptoms resulting from fighting in the wars.  How does one process and live any kind of healthy life after having these experiences?  These vets come home having survived the ravages of war, and yet their struggle for survival just begins.

Holding it Down is going to be an extremely poignant, arresting peek into the unconscious minds of veterans – coming to terms with their experiences in dream state.  The three songs I have heard from the performance thus far are heart-wrenching yet beautiful in their way.  The music is heady – soulful beats, ironic gorgeous piano licks with electronic embellishment.  Combine the emotional sounds with the visual component and you will walk out of Harlem Stage Gatehouse with a new grasp on reality, understanding more deeply how dark and twisted war really is.   Joining Vijay and Mike will be poet Maurice Decaul, who served with the Marines in Iraq in 2003 and Air Force Staff Sergeant Lynn Hill.

Holding It Down: The Veterans’ Dreams Project plays from September 19th through the 22nd at Harlem Stage Gatehouse, 150 Convent Ave. at 135th St. 212.650.7100. www.harlemstage.org