“Gagging…” A Holiday Show About What it Means to be Black, Queer And Home for the Holidays

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Playwright korde arrington tuttle.


651 ARTS presents a different kind of holiday show with a deeper theatrical contemplation of the season in the witty one-man introspective Gagging on the Ornament I Made for My Mom in Mr. Raymond’s 5th Grade Class by korde arrington tuttle. This work in progress deconstructs the “Christmas spirit” and explores what it means to be Queer, Black and going home for the holidays. Showing one night only, on Monday, December 16 at 7:30pm at BAM Fisher in Brooklyn, New York.


Gagging… centers around the character Lavelle (played by Reggie D.White) who receives a photo from his mother, “Petty” Shirley, of a uniquely shaped Christmas ornament he made for her in the 5th grade. He is then forced to confront his feelings of discomfort and uprootedness that always come to surface particularly during the Holidays. While all around him are messages and images pointing to happy families and the Christmas spirit, Lavelle reminisces about the isolation he felt during past challenging visits home. Incorporating aspects of James Baldwin’s essay, The American Dream and The American Negro, and informed by John Howard Griffin’s black like me, Gagging…is a sharp and intimate musing on one man’s journey towards understanding, forgiveness and ultimately, holiday joy. 


“As a Black, Gay man, I wanted to tell a story from the perspective of Black, queer folks who may not be welcome home for the holidays. This time of year is stressful for LGBTQ people. Some of us are not welcome home and some of us have to put on an armor in order to go home,” said tuttle. “What does it look like when we are disconnected from our sense of home and from our ability to be our full selves at home with our families. Gagging focuses on that journey - as it is a solo path - to investing in our own healing and reframing the holidays for ourselves in a healthy, positive way.”


“When I first met korde, I automatically knew that I wanted to work with him. He is a true creative, an exciting, new voice in Black theater and just the kind of artist we seek to support at 651,” said 651’s Creative Director, Raelle Myrick Hodges. “Our mission as an institution is to provide a platform for all artists across the Diaspora to tell their stories and there are so many amazing artistic voices in the LGBTQ community that we want to ensure are spotlighted.  

Once I heard the premise for Gagging, I said we have to do this and, if we are to have a Holiday presentation, this is the exact kind of work we can and do stand behind. It is such a relevant issue that we don’t talk about enough and korde is a thoughtful, witty storyteller plus the title alone sold me.”


The 2019-20 season also marks the first led by the institution’s new leadership team: Executive Director David Roberts, and Creative Director Raelle Myrick-Hodges. Last year, as it ushered in its 30th Anniversary - marking an important milestone in its rich history – 651 strategically entered a phase of rebuilding. Before moving to a new home at the much buzzed about cultural spaces at 300 Ashland Place (now known as 10 Lafayette) in the next couple of years, the organization has begun to reimagine its artistic and institutional footprint, preparing 651 for the next 30 years and beyond. 


Tickets for Gagging on the Ornament I Made for My Mom in Mr. Raymond’s 5th Grade Class are $20-$30.

For more information, please visit 651 Arts 

Tickets are also available here 


651 ARTS 2019/2020 Season is made possible with support from: Con Edison, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, The Howard Gilman Foundation, Lambent Foundation, Mertz Gilmore Foundation, The New York Community Trust, The New York Community Trust - LuEsther T. Mertz Advised Fund, National Performance Network, and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs.

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