The Peculiar Patriot
The Peculiar Patriot is a solo stage play in development by poet, performer-playwright (and Def Poetry alum) Liza Jessie Peterson. It follows Betsy LaQuanda Ross, a self-proclaimed “peculiar patriot,” who makes regular visits to penitentiaries, boosting the morale of her incarcerated friends and family. Betsy is both victim and victor of this country’s prison system and represents the millions of men and women who sojourn to penitentiaries on a regular basis, subjecting themselves to long bus rides and security checks to visit incarcerated loved ones. As this witty love story unfolds, The Peculiar Patriot gives voice to the voiceless and shines a glaring light on America’s fastest growing industry while enchanting audiences with provocative thought, hilarious dialogue, and gripping pathos.
Inspired by Liza’s decade-long work with prison populations, the play examines the human impact and inhuman machinery of mass incarceration. Betsy’s tale has become a powerful human story that impacts more than 2.5 million people behind bars, their loved ones and their communities. While The Peculiar Patriot has been performed informally, MAPP International is developing this timely project into a fully staged show that can be accessible to broader audiences
Each performance will run approximately 15 – 20 minutes. Liza Jessie Peterson is presented within the 3:45pm – 5:30pm set. Follow by a short discussion, moderated by Noel Allain.
Liza Jessie Peterson
Photo Courtesy of the Artist
Liza Jessie Peterson is a playwright, actress, poet, educator and artivist. Liza has written several plays including her most recent one woman play The Peculiar Patriot, which embarked on a national prison tour where she performed in over 35 jails and penitentiaries across the country. She performed The Peculiar Patriot, opening for Angela Davis, at Columbia University’s conference on mass incarceration. The Peculiar Patriot recently had a successful run at the Penumbra Theater and was highly reviewed and is in production development for a national tour scheduled to launch in 2016. Her plays and character monologues have been featured in notable theater festivals and performed in various theaters, nationally and internationally. Other plays include: Lesson’s on the A Train, Chiron’s Homegirl Healer Howls, Witness the Priestess, Sistergurls and the Squirrel, and Church of the Living Womb.
Also known for her exceptional poetic skills, Liza began her poetry career at the famed Nuyorican Poets Café in the mid-90’s and was a vital member of the enclave of notable poets who were part of the “underground slam poetry/spoken word” movement before it attracted television cameras and became a national obsession. It was this electric group of artists that inspired Russell Simmons to bring “spoken word/slam poetry” to HBO where Liza appeared on two episodes of Def Poetry. She has shared the stage with luminaries such as Nona Hendryx, Toshi Reagon, Amiri Baraka, The Last Poets, Craig Harris, Vernon Reid, Rakim, Carl Hancock Rux and Sandra St. Victor to name just a few.
As an actress Liza appeared in several feature films: Love the Hard Way (costarring with Pam Grier and Academy Award winner Adrien Brody), Spike Lee’s, Bamboozled, K. Shalini’s, A Drop of Life, (co-starring with Nandita Das which was filmed in Mumbai India), and Jamie Catto’s, One Giant Leap/ What About Me, where she was a featured and interviewed along with Tim Robbins, Eckhart Tolle, Deepak Chopra, Noam Chomsky and others.
Liza has taught theater and poetry to urban and incarcerated youth for more than 15 years and counting. She created and developed The Urban Folktale Project, where her students created original plays based on their most pressing issues and performed it at several theaters around New York City. The project was so successful that it received a grant from Russell Simmons’ Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation. The Urban Folktale Project has successfully produced three plays. Liza remains steadfastly committed to this population of youth (both at Rikers Island and at community based programs) where she has discovered inspiration and light in a dark place.
Upcoming: Her book, ALL DAY; A Memoir of Love and Survival Teaching Incarcerated Kids, is scheduled to be released 2015