After a successful run at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, and a two-month run with the 2014 Edinburgh Encore series at SoHo Playhouse, the theater’s Artistic Director, Darren Lee Cole, has extended Rap Guide to Religion with performances beginning Wednesday, January 7, 2015.
The fourth off-Broadway show written by and starring Drama Desk Award-nominee Baba Brinkman, Rap Guide to Religion is a 75-minute, peer-reviewed rap scripture about the science of religion, from tribal animism to Islam to Justin Bieber thanking God at the MTV Teen Choice Awards. The result is one third rap concert, one third comedy, and one third TED talk, adding up to a whole new species of off-Broadway theater.
Rap Guide to Religion is an intellectual odyssey, seeking to heal religious conflicts with a better understanding of their common evolutionary origins. Instead of using hip-hop culture as a model, Baba looks at the patterns of transformation in cultural evolution; tracing factors such as repetition, popular endorsement, source prestige, costly investment, etc.—each of which increases the chance of an idea or meme spreading. This is the key to understanding trends in hip-hop culture and also religious trends. Brinkman also explores the almost godlike status accorded to some rappers, and the techniques they use to whip the crowd into an ecstatic hands-in-the-air frenzy. Clearly rap and religion have much in common.
The show also explores the recent rise of atheism and nonbelief, and the consequences for society as we move beyond religion. What happens when millions of people rapidly reject the traditional foundation of morality? Will governments replace religion as the main enforcer of morality? Will it be anarchy, or will a new moral structure emerge? Brinkman is more interested in how those beliefs are shaped to serve the needs of believers as they interact condemning people for their beliefs, with their environments.
Incorporating multimedia, hip-hop, science and comedy, Rap Guide to Religion is not your typical theater experience. Cole, who also directed the piece, says, “This is now the third collaboration I’ve had with Baba and it is really exciting assisting him in bringing his fresh ideas and concepts to a theatrical platform. While the work is always challenging, I find it one of the most interesting and engaging forms of theatre I have ever experienced.”
Rap Guide to Religion
15 Vandam Street
Through January 20