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Community Folk Art Center celebrates 50 years, Syracuse alum performs his one-man play

Joseph Edwards rehearses his play "Fly" which is being performed March 30 through April 1 at the Community Folk Art Center in Syracuse.
Gregory Whitehead
Joseph Edwards rehearses his play "Fly" which is being performed March 30 through April 1 at the Community Folk Art Center in Syracuse.

The Community Folk Art Center is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. As part of the celebration, a Syracuse alum is performing his one-man play this weekend.

The Community Folk Art Center at Syracuse University was created to highlight marginalized artists giving them an opportunity to exhibit their work in mainstream art spaces. Executive Director Tanisha Jackson said the center is the only African diasporic arts center in the city.

"It is here that people can learn more about the African diaspora community," Jackson said. "The center serves as a safe space for dialogue, for discourse. We work with a diverse body of scholars both at the university as well as within our respective communities."

The Community Folk Art Center has art galleries for exhibitions and serves as a space where people can have conversations on political and socioeconomic issues through art.

This weekend, the play "Fly," a one-man piece depicting challenges of what it means to be conscious and Black in America, is being performed.

Joseph Edwards is the playwright, director and performer of "Fly". He said he's updated the play since he initially wrote it to better reflect today's political landscape like the January 6 insurrection.

"This play illuminates the humanity of Black people," Edwards said. "It illuminates our resilience and our beauty and our willingness to struggle and find joy in our daily lives. Knowing that we have to continue to struggle for equality, for equity, not just for ourselves, but for everyone."

Other topics Edwards addresses in the play include police brutality, the opioid epidemic and colonization. Jackson said we're in a political climate where these conversations need to take place and says doing that through the arts can make it more palatable for people to not just see and hear their experiences being performed but also the dialogue that results from that.

Joseph Edwards rehearses "Fly"
Gregory Whitehead
Joseph Edwards rehearses "Fly"

"Having the play 'Fly' at the Community Folk Art Center allows for people to have an outlet to experience and discuss things that are impacting us currently, not just within the African-American community, but the United States at large," Jackson said.

Edwards uses humor throughout the piece slipping in and out of characters like his Uncle Charlie by using different voices and changing his mannerisms. He drew from his own life experiences in creating the piece — talking about his first experience with death when his best friend died unexpectedly at age 11.

"I talk about his walk," said Edwards, "how he talked and how everybody loved him. He was special and that's how I keep him alive."

The play also incorporates magic realism centering around the title character of "Fly" who believes he'll receive a special power to fly during a celestial event.

"Ultimately the question is, 'Does Fly, fly?'" Edwards said. "When that final frequency does hit that rooftop does he fly?"

"Fly" will be performed March 30 through April 1 at the Syracuse University Community Folk Art Center.

Ava Pukatch joined the WRVO news team in September 2022. She previously reported for WCHL in Chapel Hill, NC and earned a degree in Journalism and Media from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. At UNC, Ava was a Stembler Scholar and a reporter and producer for the award-winning UNC Hussman broadcast Carolina Connection. In her free time, Ava enjoys theatre, coffee and cheering on Tar Heel sports. Find her on Twitter @apukatch.