Sharon Bridgforth

Doris Duke Artist Award, 2016

San Francisco, CA

Sharon Bridgforth’s theatrical jazz works combine African-American traditions with mindfulness, resulting in culturally and spiritually rich performances. She is a resident playwright at New Dramatists, and producer, founder, and curator of the Theatrical Jazz Institute. Her 2014 work River See takes place on a riverboat just before the first Great African American Migration of 1910. In it, the past, present, and future converge through stories, leading a young girl named SEE to answer her true calling. She has developed the Finding Voice Facilitation Method, which was published in Experiments in a Jazz Aesthetic: Art, Activism, Academia, and the Austin Project (University of Texas Press, 2010). The method helps artists find their full power as art makers. Her work has been supported by Creative Capital, MAP Fund, and NPN Creation Fund, among others. Currently, she is building dat Black Mermaid Man Lady, which engages communities in block parties, workshops, oracle card readings, performance installations, and home building projects.

  • Photo Credit: Bruna Indalecio, Diaspora Vibe Cultural Arts Incubator
    Sharon Bridgforth
  • Sharon Bridgforth- The River See Theatrical Jazz Performance Installation (Produced by Links Hall, 2014) :
    The River See Theatrical Jazz Performance Installation (Produced by Links Hall, 2014)
  • delta dandi (The Long Center, 2009)
  • Photo Credit: Dan Plehal Photography
    River See Theatrical Jazz Performance Installation (Produced by Links Hall, 2014)
  • Photo Credit: Ivy Maiorino
    River See Theatrical Jazz Performance Installation, (Produced by The Theater Offensive, 2014)
  • Photo Credit: Bret Brookshire
    delta dandi (Produced by Women & Their Work, 2011)

Artistically, what do you do and why do you do it?

A child of the Great African-American Migration, I was raised by displaced Southerners celebrating freedom, longing for home, making a better life for those to come, living with shattered promises – choosing Joy. Sinning saints/they were the best storytellers... and I loved listening to them. These forces of nature activated an Ancestral calling in my bones and blood. My goal is to use the traditions, histories, and tools that they gave me to elevate them. To invite folks from many backgrounds to the party. To serve those to come. To amplify my growth and progress.

With my texts as the structure, I improvise with my collaborators. We make circles and diagonal lines. Create polyrhythm with voice and body. Make simultaneity with call and response. Play with time/multiple dimensions through non-linear storytelling. Invite audience witnesses to participate. My intention is to make jazz/ritual performance installations – honoring the Ancestors.