Shows & Events

The Ghost of America’s Past


Sep 23, 2021

7:00 pm



Program Description

The Ghost of America’s Past prompts us to look beyond the surface of our nation’s continuous civil unrest. Clearly, there is a problem; however, somewhere in between the years and changes (some for progress and others regress) we, as a nation, speak and behave as if racism and the horrors of the African slave trade comes as new information, just dusted off. A ghostlike presence looms over the country resultant of media shockwaves in the form of graphic images and/or stories about modern day lynchings as the latest episode of police brutality, and the like. The Ghost was written as a choreopoem with the intention to have the human body explore visceral, macabre, and unapologetic storytelling.

Short Film Written by
Sharece M. Sellem (she/her)

Directed and Choreographed by
Millicent Marie Johnnie (flexible)

Performed by
Rafael Tillery (he/him)

Premieres Thursday, September 23 at 7PM EST

The Play Writers Festival was made possible by the support of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

Show Credits

A native of Hartford, CT, Sharece M. Sellem is a playwright, choreographer, director, and performing arts instructor from New Haven, CT. She was trained by Bryn Mawr College’s Headlong Performance Institute and Yale University’s Practical Approach to Directing summer program. Her resume includes performances at Bregamos Community Theater, Long Wharf Theatre, Pride Arts Center of Chicago, Charter Oak Cultural Center, Carriage House Theater, Illinois Voices Theatre, Norwich Arts Center, University of California San Diego, and more. She is the founder of Vintage Soul Productions LLC and currently resides in Delaware.

A two time United States Artists nominee in dance, as a teenager, Millicent Marie Johnnie hosted a local social justice TV show met by protests from the KKK; she traces her professional determination and commitment to social issues in Black culture to this early opposition. Former Associate Artistic Director of Urban Bush Women with choreography featured on ESPN, the Prince William Network and Sunshine Networks, Johnnie worked A&R through Marvelous Enterprises bringing together her diverse experiences in theater and dance into the music industry. After choreographing Thoughts of a Colored Man, a Broadway-bound play produced by Syracuse Stage and Baltimore Center Stage, Johnnie received her MFA in film with a specialization in producing and story development. Johnnie’s NEFA National Dance Project Bamboula: Musicians’ Brew inspired her short film Bamboula is Not Bamboozled and with significant contribution from the The National Carnival Commission of Trinidad and Tobago, she developed and produced, La DiaBlesse Curse; both currently touring the film festival circuit. Johnnie choreographed Scary Movie 5 and is currently in post-production for her feature, Ma Negresse, featuring Grammy nominated fiddle player, Cedric Watson. Pulling Back the Curtain, her latest hybrid film released in October, exposes the Ballet world’s fragility and reckoning with the intersection of COVID-19 and systemic oppression. 

A native of Chicago, IL, Rafael Tillery began his dance training at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, TN, from where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Theatre and Dance in 2013. Rafael danced with the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company II under the direction of Shonna Hickman-Matlock from 2013-2014. In 2014 he relocated to St. Louis, MO to join the Modern American Dance Company (MADCO) where he performed for two years under the direction of Stacy West. He has worked with notable choreographers such as Molissa Fenley, Debbie Blunden-Diggs, William B. McClellan, Jr., Nejla Yatkin, Ronin Koresh, Rodney A. Brown, B.B Miller, and more. He attended the 2012 American Dance Festival, Trisha Brown Dance Workshop, and the Garth Fagan Dance Intensive and has had the opportunity to perform as a guest artist alongside Shen Wei Dance Arts, Garth Fagan Dance Company, and the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company (1st company). Rafael’s choreographic work has been adjudicated to the American College Dance Association (ACDA), the Tennessee Association of Dance (TAD), and the Saint Louis Arts Alliance; he has choreographed and taught for various performance studios and dance companies within and around the Saint Louis area including Consuming Kinetics Dance Company, Patzius Performing Arts, Kirkwood Dance Center, Michelle’s School of Dance, and Karlovsky and Company Dance. Rafael is currently in his second year as a Dance and Choreography MFA candidate at Florida State University; his studies focus on multidisciplinary approaches in dance composition and solo practices as well as Afro-aesthetics within contemporary dance techniques.