Juilliard Drama's 'Hoodoo Love' Starts a Cultural Dialogue

Tuesday, Jan 30, 2018
Susan Jackson
Juilliard Journal
Rehearsing 'Hoodoo Love'
Director Kym'Hoodoo at an early "Hoodoo Love" rehearsal with fourth-years Calvin Leon Smith (Jib), Daniel Davila (Ace), and Brittany Bradford (Toulou); and alumni Justin Cunningham (Musician) and Lisa Arrindell (Candy Lady)

Katori Hall's Hoodoo Love

Susan Jackson, Juilliard's editorial director, spoke with Kym Moore, one of the Juilliard fourth-year-repertory directors, about Hoodoo Love's relevance to modern conversations about gender, race, and cultural beliefs.

In Katori Hall’s (Playwrights ’09) 2007 play Hoodoo Love, a woman named Toulou tries to make it as a blues singer in 1930s Memphis but gets caught up when she tries to use hoodoo to bewitch a man into loving her back.

There are many benefits to doing this play as part of this year’s fourth-year repertory cycle, according to director Kym Moore. One is that it allows the actors and the audience to “discover the rich cultural history of African-American life and the modes of cultural expression devised to cope with the challenges of living in a foreign land.” Two of those modes are the blues—“one of the most significant influences on American popular music and the Hoodoo myths and beliefs that remained as a distant memory of the former slaves’ West African roots.”

Rehearsing 'Hoodoo Love'

While Hoodoo Love is set in the past, “the struggle to overcome obstacles of gender, race, and culture in order to pursue art is meaningful and a rare opportunity for all of us, making Hoodoo Love a deeply personal and ultimately liberating journey,” Moore said. It also “showcases an approach to storytelling that is more resonant with classical Greek drama than with the more conventional forms of realism that are the dominant mode of cultural expression today,” she added. “Americans might call it magic realism, which is an inaccurate but useful way to describe the magic in Hoodoo Love.”

Tickets for Hoodoo Love, which runs February 10-18, are available for $20 or less