Project: “Luminous Instruments”

Harold Shapiro, a renowned regional photographer and teacher at Yale University and Creative Arts Workshop (CAW), completed his Bitsie Fund project, “Luminous Instruments”, where he combined his two lifelong passions: photography and music. In this breathtaking body of work, Harold played with light and long exposures to produce images that evoke actual movement and music. Harold shared “Luminous Instruments” through exhibitions and talks, including at Yale, at CAW and at the New England School of the Arts in New Hampshire.

We asked Harold if we could share some of his other recent work, which is equally extraordinary. For most of his life, Harold pursued traditional photography.  During the Covid-19 pandemic, however, he added a new focus. As he reported: “Now I am compositing images and am exploring surrealism to express my emotions.”

A few of his many astonishing works are included here.  To view more: haroldshapirophotography.com.


Project: “WHAT RIOT?”

What Riot Flyer

Adam Matlock, a New Haven musician/composer/teacher, had a Herculean dream: to create a full-scale opera about the Greenwood Massacre, the appalling mass murder of African Americans in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1921.  During that two-day tragedy, a white mob set fire to hundreds of Black-owned businesses in a prosperous Black business district.

Adam’s Bitsie Fund proposal was to complete and present the first act of his opera composition, “What Riot?” Despite multiple challenges and obstacles due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Adam persevered.  Because he was unable to bring a large group of musicians together for live studio work, he altered his plans.  “With the safety of performers at the forefront of my priority”, he explained, “we pivoted towards producing a recording, which featured an electronic score that I created.”  In the end, Adam triumphed, presenting his recording and holding a discussion of his composition in November, 2023 at the Neighborhood Music School.

Adam is now working steadily on new music for piano, accordion, and electronics, most of which can be found at adammatlock.bandcamp.com.

Project: “Smooth Criminal”

Dahlak Brathwaite and Daniel Bernard-Roumain
Dahlak Brathwaite and Daniel Bernard-Roumain

Aaron Jafferis, a multi-award-winning hip-hop poet and playwright received the Bitsie Fund grant for a hip-hop play, “Smooth Criminal”.  This somewhat autobiographical (“but don’t fact-check with his parents”) work is about a nerdy white kid — the only white boy in his high school class — who enthusiastically embraces the culture there but comes from a family with some white attitudes.  As Aaron explores these attitudes and the internal conflicts and intense relationships that can result, he very personally and boldly explores issues regarding past, present and imagined future conflicts regarding race and class.  As his performances – with a hip hop musical beat — bare his own family secrets, he compels his audiences to look within themselves to face their own.

Aaron was pleased to welcome acclaimed composer/violinist Daniel Bernard Roumain and an exciting hip-hop theatre-maker, Dahlak Brathwaite (both pictured above) to join the Smooth Criminal project as co-composers.  Their collaboration began in November, 2023 with a residency funded in part by the Bitsie Fund.   In celebration of the 50th anniversary of Hip Hop, the team brought the hip-hop musical to University of California, Davis for three performances.

We can join Aaron for an evening reading of “Smooth Criminal” on May 23, at Fairfield University’s Quick Center.  (Time will be shared later.)

To learn more: aaronjafferis.com.

Project: “Death by a Thousand Cuts: A Requiem for Black and Brown Men”

Steve Driffin and cast members Sharmont Influence Little, Rodney T. Moore, Stephen King, Jason Hall
Steve Driffin and cast members Sharmont Influence Little, Rodney T. Moore, Stephen King, Jason Hall

BREAKING NEWS: Steve Driffin has received a 2024 “Repairer Recognition Award” from The International Center for MulltiGenerational Legacies of Trauma.  The award is “for poignantly giving authentic voice to generations of black and brown men who lived through ‘Death by a Thousand Cuts’”.

Congratulations to Steve and his team!

Steve Driffin’s s 2021 Bitsie Fund award was the catalyst for the theatrical read of the play, “Death by a Thousand Cuts: A Requiem for Black and Brown Men.” Steve described it: “It’s a mirror for us [Black men] to look at ourselves, and a window for those who want to better view and understand our experiences.” Partly autobiographical, but also based on many conversations with other men, it lays bare feelings and facts that have remained unrevealed.  Each performance is followed by a conversation between the director and actors with the audience.  The total experience is raw, powerful and shockingly honest.

Steve Driffin with Bitsie Clark and Mary Vines
Steve Driffin with Bitsie Clark and Mary Vines at awards ceremony

Steve and company gave nine performances/readings at Connecticut venues between 2021-2022 including a sold-out show at Long Wharf Theater, before making its off-Broadway debut.  “The Requiem” returned to New York in October 2023 with its performance in full production!

Future plans include summer street performances in selected areas of New Haven.  For event updates: Facebook : “Death by a Thousand Cuts: A Requiem for Black and Brown Men.”





Project: “Test Tube Mirror Dialectic”

Jake Gagne
Jake Gagne

According to a publication entitled wait, what? magazine: for Connecticut underground: “what you have to know is, Jake Gagne is a legendary experimental electro punk artist living in New Haven, Connecticut.”

Jake completed his project, “Test Tube Mirror Dialectic,” which he describes as “a search for extrasensory clues within a spiritual mystery. It incorporates video and some 3D animation, and the music was composed on a new Moog analog synthesizer that I was able to purchase thanks to the support of this grant!“

Jake reports taking his musical practice in surprising new directions, leading to a new full-length record, In Sausalito—released in 2022 under his skeleton yaks alias, and an EP titled Starway of Yaks.  

Tetonnage fragment.

He was also able to cross-pollinate his musical and video work, as he had hoped, and reports: “I also had the honor of creating a slightly freakish animated video for Connecticut noise rock icons Fat Randy’s ‘Asymmetrical Bangs Pt. 1,’complete with a karaoke-style bouncing ball on the lyrics.”

Jake had artwork featured in Connectic*nt Magazine, issue 11, and music featured in a benefit compilation from Funny Bone Records.  Currently, he is working on a new video piece called Tétonnage.  Above are some screenshots.