Today’s episode features part 2 of ACIRFA by Aja Houston, an epic and lyrical play set in a mythic Afro-fantasy world examining ideas of Blackness, colonialism, slavery, and legacy.
Last episode on Play x Play:
We are introduced to Acirfa, a mystical African fantasy world where the inhabitants have beautiful black wings which imbue them with magical power. Aaliyah is the new Queen of Nubiana, the most powerful of the Queendoms in Acirfa. After losing an epic battle against the foreign “Iron-Winged” invaders from Netherworld, Aaliyah is sentenced to death and her magical wings are torn from her body and “reaped.” Her lover, Osi, is able to save some of her feathers before being imprisoned as well. They are both left to die in an underwater chamber, slowly filling with water.
Without her wings, Aaliyah has lost all her memories of her former self. Osi treats her wounds and feeds her the feathers he recovered from her removed wings, which return some magic and memories of her life before the War. Through these flashbacks she discovers that until her mother Amani’s recent passing, she was the crown princess of Nubiana. Osi informes her that the invaders from Netherworld have led a campaign across Acirfa, colonizing queendom after queendom, resulting in a huge refugee crisis.
Among the refugees that arrived to Nubiana’s door were the Healer Sarai, her son Osi, and Aaliyah’s childhood friend, Lesedi, a fellow princess of a neighboring Queendom.
In retaliation for refusing to surrender to the Iron Winged, Lesedi had been brutalized and reaped by the Iron-Winged invaders, who also murdered her betrothed. The traumatic event had shattered Lesedi’s psyche, leaving her scarred and mentally fragile. Taking in these refugees, Aaliyah began to assume more responsibility in governing Nubiana as her mother, Amani, retreated further into isolation with her advisor, Jamal.
Meanwhile, Aaliyah and Osi grow closer, eventually falling in love. In a heartbreaking final scene of Act 1, Lesedi, in an act of desperation, cuts open her womb to abort the pregnancy caused by her rape at the hands of the Iron Winged. Aaliyah watches helplessly as Lesedi throws herself from a balcony, to end her tortured life.
As you can tell, Acirfa is a deliciously complex and epic play, and if you haven’t listened to the last episode, I highly recommend it.
Aaliyah was played by Shaun Bennet Fauntleroy
Osi was played by Robert Lee Taylor
Amani was played by Lori Parquet
Sarai was played by Yeauxlanda Kaye
Jamal and the Judge were played by Anthony Wills Jr.
Lesedi was played by Geri-Nikole Love
and stage directions were read by Adriana Jones
This episode was directed by Heather Cohn
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