February 18, 2021

Spotlight on avery r. young

Lyric is an international company that is also deeply committed to working with Chicago artists to tell stories, innovate, and build community. Twilight: Gods, Lyric’s upcoming production conceived and directed by Yuval Sharon, and a coproduction with Michigan Opera Theater, reimagines the final chapter of Wagner's epic Ring cycle as a drive-through experience staged in a parking garage. It’s a perfect example of innovatively telling a story, with a local frame of reference, when circumstances don’t allow artists and audiences to gather in conventional performance spaces. 

The narration and text for the Chicago production have been written and will be performed by Chicago poet and interdisciplinary artist avery r. young. (The first performances of Twilight: Gods, presented by Michigan Opera Theatre last October, featured narration and text by a local Detriot artist, Marsha Music.) Learn more about young as we prepare to premiere his work on Twilight: Gods later this spring:

avery r. young is a 3Arts Award-winning teaching artist, composer, and producer whose work spans the genres of music, performance, visual arts, and literature. Examining and celebrating Black American history and culture, his work also encompasses social justice, equity, queer identity, misogyny, and body consciousness. young’s writing has been featured in The Breakbeat Poets, Coon Bidness, to be left with the body, and Make Magazine. He has also written curriculum and essays on arts education that appear in the Teaching Artist Journal and A.I.M. Print.

young’s performance and work in sound design merges the spiritual and secular with dramatic and comedic sensibilities. He has performed at Lollapalooza, the Hip Hop Theater Festival, and Wordstock. He has recorded with house producers Anthony Nicholson and Charlie Dark, and is featured on recordings such as New World Reveal-A-Solution, Audio Truism, Catfish Haven’s Devastator, and New Skool Poetiks. His full-length release, booker t. soltreyne: a race rekkid, features songs and other sounds created during his artist residency with the University of Chicago's Arts + Public Life initiative. Through voice, sound, visual art, and performance, young is constantly exploring the forms and spaces in which poetry can exist. 

avery r. young performing his work.

Young’s first book, neckbone (Northwestern University Press), was published in June 2019. “I’ve been describing this book as a way to present poetry as art,” he told NewCity in 2019. “I use words like visual poetry, concrete poetry. It’s about navigating adjectives within Blackness, intersections in a completely Black world and recognizing ways in which this young dude figured out how to move. I set out to explore thirty-two moments in Black culture that define where Black people are in this moment in time, and then realized I was writing about me.” 

young is currently one of four directors for the Floating Museum and tours with his band, avery r. young & de deacon board. He is also well known among Chicago youth through his work as a teaching artist at a variety of arts organizations and as a Rebirth Poetry Ensemble coach, educating young people on the power of poetry.

An image of the art in Michigan Opera Theatre's production of Twilight: Gods.

The narration and poetry that young created for Twilight: Gods will weave together the production’s scenes and recontextualize the story for Chicago, linking it to our city and this specific moment in history. It will be part of a performance unlike any that Lyric audiences have experienced. 

To learn more about Twilight: Gods, visit lyricopera.org/twilight-gods/.

Photos: Mitty Carter, or provided by avery