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Local Artists to Perform 'Anthology' of Crown Heights Stories at Weeksville

 The ensemble of
The ensemble of "Anthology: Crown Heights" rehearses, including (from left to right) musician Josh Marcus, musician Taja Cheek, actor Xandra Clark and poet DK Wright. Dancer Molly Mingey, not pictured, is also part of the show.
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Xandra Clark

CROWN HEIGHTS — When Xandra Clark moved to Crown Heights in 2013, she came with an awareness of the neighborhood’s history, particularly of the violence that took place there in the summer of 1991.

But when she arrived, she was surprised to find her conversations with neighbors and friends (as well as media coverage in the area) didn’t focus so much on the racially charged conflict, but on a different, equally complicated topic: gentrification.

“For 23 years, the narrative of Crown Heights has been riots and, now, for the last two or three years, it’s been gentrification, gentrification,” she said.

As an actor and writer, Clark set out to turn that subject into “a conscious conversation about how the neighborhood is changing,” she said.

To do that, she has spent more than a year collecting oral histories from area residents and working with local artists Taja Cheek, Josh Marcus, Molly Mingey and DK Wright — all Crown Heights residents — to create a theatrical production, “Anthology: Crown Heights,” to be performed at the Weeksville Heritage Center this weekend.

In the piece, Clark and the four others will dance, play music and perform spoken word poetry with recordings from the oral histories woven in, she said. The intention of the performance is to open up a series of questions, including how has Crown Heights changed and “How can we make the community more integrated for the future?” she said.

“I want someone in the audience to look at this performance and think ‘Oh, that’s a feeling I had before, but never identified’ … or see something and say ‘Wow, I never knew that perspective existed,’” she said.

“Anthology” addresses the Crown Heights riots, of course — it’s timed to take place around the 25th anniversary of the violence — but Clark said the show is very rooted in the present.

“It’s really focused on today, but through the lens of history. [It] does come into play through the audio, but it’s more as historical context for why things are the way they are today or how things have changed, or not,” she said.

Each of the two 60-minute performances, set for 7 p.m. on Saturday, April 30 and 2 p.m on Sunday, May 1, will include talkbacks with the performers and audience members after the show, Clark said. Tickets are available online with a $10 suggested donation.

The Weeksville Heritage Center is located at 158 Buffalo Ave. between St. Marks Avenue and Bergen Street.