The Moss Arts Center will premiere a community-driven choral and hip-hop theatre forum about belonging, isolation, and healing, coupled with a series of related engagement events, all created to foster deeper ways for community members to connect and build communities of safety and support.

The center will present two performances of “(Be)longing” on March 17 and 18 at 7:30 p.m.  

The performances will be held in the Anne and Ellen Fife Theatre, located within the Moss Arts Center’s Street and Davis Performance Hall at 190 Alumni Mall. To encourage interaction between the audience and performers, audience members for both performances of “(Be)longing” will be seated on the stage of the theatre.

Composer Byron Au Yong and hip-hop playwright Aaron Jafferis began working in collaboration with the Moss Arts Center in 2014 to create a performance event to reflect on society’s collective emergence from tragedies.

The artists have participated in several residencies in Blacksburg over the past three years, where they met with individuals from community organizations and Virginia Tech student groups, as well as university faculty and staff, to better understand the impact of gun violence.

The artists have also visited cities and towns across the country that have been impacted by gun violence, and together these voices have contributed to a work that explores the cycle and context of violence, including the ways people respond collectively in its aftermath.

Featuring locally cast singers, beatboxers, and hip-hop artists, “(Be)longing” is a responsive performance that blurs the lines between audience and performer, providing space and opportunity for sharing and discovery.

The project’s campus and community engagement activities include a new interdisciplinary course for Virginia Tech students, “The Arts and Social Transformation.” Developed by Erika Meitner, associate professor of English and director of Virginia Tech’s Master of Fine Arts program in creative writing, and Ali Colleen Neff, visiting assistant professor in women’s and gender studies and Africana studies at Virginia Tech, the course is using “(Be)longing” as a guide to help students address violence, belonging, isolation, healing, and community in critical and creative ways.

The Moss Arts Center will host a presentation featuring the students’ culminating work from the course April 27 at 7 p.m. in the Miles C. Horton Jr. Gallery. The event is free and open to the public.

In addition, Blacksburg resident Holly Lesko and Virginia Tech alumna and guest artist Shannon Turner present “Stories of (Be)longing: Resilience and Remembrance” on April 16, at 4 p.m. at the Lyric Theatre.

This event will feature true stories of resilience, reflection, and remembrance, which were developed by community members for performance through open workshops earlier in the year. Admission is free, but reservations are encouraged. Reservations can be made online.

Created by Au Yong and Jafferis in collaboration with director Charlotte Brathwaite and choreographer Ni’Ja Whitson, “(Be)longing” is scheduled to appear in at least six cities across the nation over the next two seasons after its world premiere at the Moss Arts Center at Virginia Tech.  

“(Be)longing” is a commission of the Moss Arts Center and developed in partnership with International Festival of Arts & Ideas in New Haven, Connecticut. Residency development provided by The Flea Theater, New York City; Westminster Choir College; Montalvo Arts Center; and Weston Playhouse. “(Be)longing” was developed, in part, at the 2014 Sundance Institute Theatre Lab at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art.

Please note, the performances of "(Be)longing" contain adult themes and content.


Tickets for the performance are $25 for general admission and $10 for students and youth 18 and under. Tickets can be purchased online; at the Moss Arts Center's box office, 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday; or by calling 540-231-5300 during box office hours.

Parking is available in the North End Parking Garage on Turner Street. Virginia Tech faculty and staff possessing a valid Virginia Tech parking permit can enter and exit the garage free of charge. Limited street parking is also available. Parking on Alumni Mall is free on weekdays after 5 p.m. and on weekends.

If you are an individual with a disability and desire an accommodation, please contact Kacy McAllister at 540-231-5300 or email during regular business hours at least 10 business days prior to an event.

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