FORCE! an opera in three acts

Anna Martine Whitehead


Over years of making performances inside and around prison, and visits with incarcerated friends and family, Anna Martine Whitehead meditates on the relationships of women and femmes in the waiting areas—the loved ones forced into a complex intimacy both tied and always resistant to the institution. FORCE! an opera in three acts is a Black femme story of interior lives and shared fantasies where characters become fractals for the abundant relationships blooming in the shadows of the state and carceral power. Queer and dreamy, ambitious and angsty, and inspired by Black girls, abolition feminists, and waiting rooms everywhere, Whitehead’s powerful opera imagines a strange sisterhood with the power to disintegrate walls and features collaborations with composer Ayanna Woods and a constellation of freedom dreamers. Using sound, movement, and the prison as a particular prism through which we can bear witness to the ways carceral systems replicate themselves, FORCE! is also an attempt to abolish the Prison Industrial Complex in our heads, hearts, and houses.

FORCE! an opera in 3 acts is funded by Pivot Arts, University of Chicago Arts + Public Life, St. Benedict the African Parish, The Graham Foundation for the Advanced Study of Fine Arts, The Vera List Center, 3Arts / 3AP, New England Foundation for the Arts / National Theater Project, National Performance Network / Creation Fund, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Northwestern University / Virginia Wadsworth Wirtz Centers, and MAP Fund.

about the artist

Anna Martine Whitehead

Anna Martine Whitehead does performance from the homelands of the Council of the Three Fires; the Miami, Ho-Chunk, Sauk, and Meskwaki; as well as the Kickapoo, Peoria, and Sioux Nations. They make art and write about race, gender, and moving bodies; and support coalition movements committed to repair and transformation. Their solo work and collaborative processes have been presented by the Renaissance Society, the San José Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. They have received fellowships and awards from the Vera List Center, Dance/USA, the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, the Graham Foundation Fellow, 3Arts, Chicago Dancemakers Forum, and the MAP Fund.


cast & creative team

Librettist, Choreographer, Co-Composer, Creator: Anna Martine Whitehead

Music Director, Lead Composer: Ayanna Woods

Co-Composer: Angel Bat Dawid

Co-Composer: Philip Armstrong

Performers: Eva Supreme, Nexus J, Daniella Pruitt, Kai Black, Teiana Davis, Brooke Skye, Jenn Freeman, Zachary Nicol, Rahila Coats, Anna Martine Whitehead