About the Grant

$25,000 to support ToasT (MAP 2012), a new work by Lemon Anderson.

About the Project

ToasT is a riveting multi-character play that spans several decades—from the lower decks of the Titanic and the black burlesque circuit, to the Indiana prison system in the 1920s and underground-urban worlds of the 1960s and 1970s. In retracing the steps that lead to today’s spoken-word performance styles, Lemon revisits the stories and epic poems that preceded hip-hop and slam poetry.

is inspired by the African-American narrative tradition of “toasts,” or lively verbal celebrations of heroic deeds by various urban characters. TOAST takes some of these iconic characters and places them within the landscape of the prison world at a time when this potent, black narrative tradition emerged with electrifying force. These characters include recognizable and popular outliers like Dolomite and Stagger Lee, who are not only a rich component of black folklore, but also represent a powerful, living form of narrative poetry in America.

ToasT fearlessly challenges the boundaries of performance poetry with a collision of traditional English and urban slang, hidden meanings, and coded messages, then couples them with the richness of poetry. ToasT reveals narrative traditions that originated in jails, bars, and street corners—traditions that have informed our use of language from the streets to academia. Fundamentally, ToasT celebrates the narrative of liberation, the heart of which is quintessentially American.

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