By Jae Bradley
NDMU’s Spring 2016 production, Love and Information by Caryl Churchill, ended in April, and after hours of strike, or theater clean-up, in the Copeland Theater, our director Elissa Goetschius asked if we wanted to watch Lemonade, Beyoncé’s film-length visual album. The days were growing warmer and the wistfulness of clearing out the “Black Box” left us with a sentimental feeling. We decided to stay.
There was a fluttering excitement in my chest at remembering how many people were raving about the film online. We gathered around Elissa’s laptop in the darkened “Black Box” with rapt attention. I was transfixed: the muted colors and tall grass were haunting; it was pleasantly incongruous with the dulcet tones of the first song, “Pray You Catch Me.” As the video progressed, the audience saw vast fields and old Southern homes and streets. We saw Beyoncé as the media titan that she is, all dressed in Black, drenched in red light and imposing. Still, we saw her vulnerable, tethered to her Black womanhood and the earth herself in “Love Drought.” It adapts the Donovan Nelson’s art of the Igbo Landing story, a pact suicide of enslaved Black women, one of the many instances in which the work is dedicated to Black women.
Lemonade well deserved an Emmy for “Outstanding Directing For A Variety Special,” despite having been snubbed. Video clips and memes alike flooded social media, asserting the power, beauty and even humor in Beyoncé’s work, which focused on fidelity and forgiveness. Self-directed, with co-direction from Kahlil Joseph, Lemonade is an iconic moment in music history. To top it off, the film also had direction from Warsan Shire, acclaimed Somali-British poet, whose words Beyoncé recites between the music. Her poetry is highly evocative, especially for the Black female audience. The work is sure to continue to leave an impression, as strong as a bat-wielding Beyoncé in a flowing yellow dress.