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Mosaic Theater Company’s Dear Mapel
There are some things Psalmayene 24 wishes he had shared with his father, but couldn’t: being among the few Black kids in his school’s mostly White gifted and talented program; the way his life was suddenly disrupted the first time he was called a racial slur; the night he met his future wife. Some are stories that fathers and sons rarely share, even if they’re both still alive. Some are humorous, slice-of-life anecdotes we tell to avoid sharing more intimate stories. Dear Mapel is local playwright and performer Psalmayene’s epistolary play of letters to his late and estranged father, Mapel. Psalmayene is a playwright-in-residence at Mosaic Theater Company, and, in November 2020, the theater presented a virtual workshop on the piece due to the pandemic. “We were experimenting with the digital form of storytelling,” says Psalmayene. More than a year later, the playwright is bringing Dear Mapel to a real-life stage as a full-length production (a streaming option will also be available). Although the tradition of spoken word as memoir was the story’s starting point, Psalmayene decided to go beyond those constraints with his choice of collaborators. Joining him onstage is percussionist Jabari Exum, while behind the scenes is director Natsu Onoda Power, who has incorporated animation, illustrations, and tactile art objects into the show. “Natsu brings a certain gift of making certain ideas visually manifest, [while] my own style is rooted in an elemental starkness. It keeps me on my toes and brings a certain whimsy and levity,” says Psalmayene. For the playwright, working on Dear Mapel has been cathartic. “One can heal and build a relationship with someone who is not around—it is a creative act.” Mosaic Theater Company’s Dear Mapel runs through Feb. 13 at Atlas Performing Arts Center, 1333 H St. NE. The show also runs virtually. mosaictheater.org. $20–$70. Proof of vax and masks required for in-person viewing.