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Let's Take a Breath

By Lindsay A. Jenkins, Dramaturg for The First Deep Breath

We’ll begin with gratitude. Take a moment to honor those who continue to breathe life into our communities, our work, our imaginations. In this moment I am grateful for Dr. Barbara Ann Teer, James Baldwin, and my grandfather, Jaye Joyce.

Now survey the body. Are your shoulders high, near your ears? Is your jaw tense? Is your brow furrowed? Relax your body and notice the breath. You are breathing, but are you breathing deeply? Deep breathing can be hindered by both internal and external factors. Complicated relationships, expectations from others, fickle moral standards, and deferred dreams, for example. Perhaps the abbreviated breath is an inherited one, born out of circumstances beyond your control, passed down through your very DNA. These issues and more may result in shallow breath. However, the beauty of breath is that it can also be used as a tool to push through.

In I Can Breathe: Transforming the Mind, Body, and Spirit of Black Males, Rana Walker describes several benefits to deep breathing including: slowing the heart rate, encouraging clear thoughts, inducing calmness, relieving pain, and encouraging proactive instead of reactive behavior. She offers a breathing exercise called Box Breathing:

  • Close your eyes.
  • Inhale for a count of four, hold for a count of four, exhale for a count of four, hold for a count of four.
  • Repeat this for a minimum of five breath cycles.

It is easy to take the work of the body for granted.

I encourage you to notice the breath throughout this performance and in your day-to-day lives. Thank you for being present, open-minded, and compassionate.

Click here to dig deeper into the themes and topics of The First Deep Breath and learn about Po’ Mourner, giggle at pop culture references, and nerd-out on scholarly articles.

The First Deep Breath

FEB 1 – MAR 5, 2023

Written by Lee Edward Colston II
Directed by Steve H. Broadnax III
Featuring Opa Adeyemo, Lee Edward Colston II, Brandon Mendez Homer, Ella Joyce, Herb Newsome, Deanna Reed-Foster, Candace Thomas & Keith A. Wallace

Pastor Albert Jones and his family are proud leaders of the Mother Bethel Baptist Church and pillars of their community. Plans are being made for a special memorial service to honor their late daughter Diane on the sixth anniversary of her passing. But when Abdul-Malik, the eldest son whom Albert blames for her death, returns home from prison, the family’s veneer begins to crack as shocking revelations come to light. A ferocious new epic written by Lee Edward Colston II, The First Deep Breath chronicles the depths families will go to hide their skeletons from the outside world and each other.


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