• Cristee Cook

Zanzi Star invites imagination, self-worth, and connection in Soul Rep Theatre’s SOUL-O-SHORTS

By Cristee Cook

Continuing their 25th anniversary season, Dallas’ Soul Rep Theatre is presenting SOUL-O-SHORTS, a filmed play series featuring six world premier short solo performances. The project was created by a dynamic team of local playwrights, directors, dancers, and cinematographers, and explores the beauty and struggle of Black men, the gift of children and their imaginations, and even stories about notable historical figures: namely, James Baldwin, Zora Neale Hurston, Hattie McDaniel, and Nat Turner.

Dallas Art Beat will be featuring a short Q&A with each of the artists behind the plays. This time, we spoke with Director and Choreographer La’Hunter Smith about the magical story of Zanzi Star. Written by Guinea Bennett-Price, Zanzi Star is energetic and moving. Dancer Harmoni Hampton personifies the story’s themes of black girl magic and female empowerment. Yusef Miller’s vocal work in the spoken word voiceover adds a magical quality to the themes of ancestors and origin, miracles, and mysticism.

What is the inspiration behind this project?

Zanzi Star, speaks to the imagination in the center of my creativity - that childlike fantasy world where our strength and power lives, waiting to be accessed, the power that has been passed down and carried through the blood and breath of the diaspora, the Hip Hop Peter Pan of our time and community. Zanzi Star teaches Project Kids how to tap into this inner strength which is interchangeable with her own beat.

Harmoni Hampton as ZANZI STARR in Soul Rep Theatre's SOUL-O-SHORTS | Photo courtesy of Soul Rep Theatre

What positive changes have come out of the pandemic time in regard to your work - creating what is traditionally live performance for a virtual audience?

Going through this pandemic has revealed this inner strength for me, to beacon something deeper in the creative process, exposing more vulnerable layers to build on, forcing us to find even more voices to tell our stories. This is the perfect time to escape into a bit of fantasy since life itself can and has been so heavy. Zanzi picks you up, cradles you in her arms, delights you to smile, and brings you to tears of joy straight from your heart.

What is sustaining you right now?

What sustains me during this pandemic is the ability to tap into the power of prayer and the balance love can bring your life, which comes from my wife. Also, working with Harmoni Hampton (Zanzi Star). She is a young artist that has grown with every new project that she dives into with Soul Rep. I love being witness to a young artist finding their voice and strengthening that muscle that says to them: this is why I chose to do this, and this is why I love it! I was honored to help reveal the voice and soul of Zanzi.


SOUL-O-SHORTS -- Written, Directed, and Performed by Soul Rep Theatre company members is streaming through May 31, 2021. For tickets, visit: https://www.showtix4u.com/event-details/51010.

View the trailer on Soul Rep Theatre's YouTube channel.

Follow Dallas Art Beat's interview series for a deeper dive into SOUL-O-SHORTS here: https://www.dallasartbeat.com/all-news/categories/series

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