Haitian-American singer-songwriter, cellist, and composer Leyla McCalla has a wide ranging body of work, both solo, as well as in the folk collective Our Native Daughters and the band Carolina Chocolate Drops. These past few years, she has stepped into the realm of theater with the production Breaking The Thermometer To Hide The Fever, which premiered at Duke University in early 2020 and was staged at FringeArts in December 2021 as part of the XPN Kanaval project.
The show finds McCalla creatively stretching herself even further, delivering a unique presentation on the impact of Radio Haiti, and the assassination of its owner Jean Dominique. It felt at times like impressionistic performance art as much as a theatrical documentary, a reflective dance piece as much as a folk concert. Through music performed by McCalla and percussionist Markus Schwatrz, as well as evocative choreography by Sheila Anozier, archival audio and projected photo / video material from the station’s archives, it immerses you in history. The show is also more broadly about the political and social turbulence in Haiti, particularly in the 80s and 90s, and about the role the station played in giving voice to marginalized folks in the country.
Check out a gallery of images from Breaking The Thermometer to Hide The Fever below. Thanks to the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage for making the show possible, and to McCalla and her collaborators, including director Kiyoko McCrae and production designer Zuri Obi.