The Black Dream Experiment LIVE reimagines dreaming in a transformative event

Diversionary Theater hosts first Black Dream Experiment LIVE show

Shanyeyah+White+and+Tyrah+Hunter+performing+musical+theater+hits.

Katarina Josifov

Shanyeyah White and Tyrah Hunter performing musical theater hits.

by Katarina Josifov, Staff Writer

The ability to compose and achieve the mind’s most unique visions through hard work is at the core of this nation’s identity. Often, this phenomenon excludes a large population from its experience, constraining dreamers of color with institutionalized burden. 

Despite significant setbacks, fearless visionaries are leading artistic movements across the country, reimagining what it means to dream freely and safely for their communities. Kelsey Daniels, the creator of The Black Dream Experiment (BDE), is one of them. 

On Aug. 25, Diversionary Theatre’s newest venue, Clark Cabaret & Bar, hosted Daniels’ compelling vision and the first BDE LIVE, showcasing a variety show, mutual aid fund, and dream mixer for black creatives. 

The Season 1, Episode 1 event, invigorated the crowd from the very beginning with a chant called “Ancestor’s Watching.” As complete strangers synchronized their energy through this simple yet harmonious tune, a dream-like ambiance began to flow effortlessly. 

One of the main perceptions that gave BDE its essence was the idea that dreaming is an ancestral wellness practice. Thus, Daniels describes the event’s origin story as a concept wrapped around elevation above surface-level simplicity and a focus on spirituality and healing. 

“In 2021, I was getting ready for Black History Month and I wanted to do something more than just commemorate history,” Daniels said. “I thought, ‘what does it mean to honor the dreams of our ancestors?’ Black folks are consistently told that surviving is a privilege. I wanted to curate a space for us to not only talk about dreaming but to actively engage with it.” 

Following the chant, all eyes were on the first performer and drag extraordinaire, Friidae. Wearing an abstract, Versace-inspired dress with dangling crystals, Friidae strutted down the stage dancing to a Kaytranada flip of Nao’s “Get to Know Ya.” Embodying both confidence and charm, she served the crowd with a delicious wig reveal and poised fierceness.

According to Daniels, another key concept behind BDE was the freedom to express queerness. 

“I wanted to make sure that [I focused on] people in liberation spaces [who are] sometimes thought of as an after-thought centered and affirmed in race,” she said. “Queerness is divine. Looking at this world telling you to be one thing, I have an understanding that the possibilities are much bigger.” 

A colorful, rotating slideshow announced the next performer, who came straight from a catering gig. Alongside being an extremely talented poet, singer, and songwriter known as DJ Almond Eyez, she is also the owner of The Remix, a vegan comfort food catering company that specializes in holistic nourishment. 

As the crowd enjoyed some of her original tracks such as “Thank ya,” “Be mine (tell me),” and “I’m the Captain,” DJ Almond Eyez’s fingers blissfully strummed the guitar strings, creating an atmosphere of radical self-reflection through her ethereal lyrics. She finished off by kindly wishing the listeners much flourishment and manifestation. 

Fresh out of Diversionary Theatre’s production of “The Wiz,” Shanyeyah White and Tyrah Hunter, brought musical theater to the stage with a splendor performance. White kicked off the set with Kerrigan-Lowdermilk’s “Hand in Hand” & “Home” from “The Wiz,” skillfully vocalizing each euphoric note. Then, Hunter continued the performance with a mesmerizing & potent rendition of “I Didn’t Plan It” from “Waitress the Musical.” However, the real show stopper was the two joining forces for a wonderfully melodic collaboration of “What About Love” from “The Color Purple.” 

As the night neared its end, the hosts directed the crowd into two groups. Each were given notecards to collectively discuss and individually reflect on questions such as “what is the wildest dream that’s come true?”

Hunter found the experience and its idea to be immensely transformative. 

“As a performer, not many ask me about my dreams because they just assume it’s all related to the arts,” she said. “However, there is so much that makes up a person. Seeing different people dreaming together in one supportive space felt like the future I wanna see.” 

Passion and glamor were brought to the stage with the next artist, CROWNE XO. Wearing a stunning tangerine-orange dress that was striking against the glitter wall, she sang through hits like “Grave” by Summer Walker, “Bigger” by Beyoncé, and her own original track, “Give Me All Your Love.” 

After a brief hiatus from performing during the pandemic, it was apparent that the stage had dearly missed CROWNE XO’s presence. Her energy, emotion, and vocals simply left the crowd in seventh heaven. 

It was only right that the sensational Friidae, who opened the night, be the one to magically lead the event to its end. Her exit performance, accompanied by Beyonce’s “Alien Superstar,” proved that she is indeed an incomparable one-of-a-kind extraordinaire. One heel at a time sashaying down the stairs in a sparkly silver one-piece, Friidae fed the audience love, brilliance, and a whole lot of diamonds and pearls. 

The event, filled with dazzling performances, empowering poetry, and collective exploration of dreams accomplished to pause time in the outside world and make space for curiosity, authenticity, and liberation. 

The Black Dream Experiment is a recurring event. Catch the next one on Sep. 18 at 6 p.m. at Clark Cabaret & Bar. Follow the organization’s Instagram @blackdreamexperiment for updates and ways to get involved.