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A World Premiere Kennedy Center Co-Commission with Hi-ARTS

Written by Felice Belle Directed by Monica L. Williams Presented as part of the Kennedy Center festival Performances for Young Audiences is made possible by


eet a young girl named Ella. Ella is on a Hip-Hop journey of discovery. She is not in search of some-thing or some-place, but of her-self. Ella has big dreams of who she wants to be and what she wants to do. However, she doubts her ability to express herself in the ways she wants. And Ella wants very much to share what she feels inside. So, she sets out in search of what the world has to teach. Her adventure takes her to other communities where she experiences music, movement, and poetry. Ella sees how these communities make positive changes happen. They offer her help and guidance. Will Ella learn to express herself, how to use her voice? Will she learn what she needs to know to become who she truly wants to be? Watch what happens.

How It All Happens

Fresh Noise is a play, a story told onstage through the words and actions of characters. Because it is Hip-Hop, there is plenty of music and dance to bring it to life. But this play is not set in a real time or a real place. It is an allegory. An allegory is like a fable. It is a make-believe story where characters and settings represent ideas.

The Big Ideas

As Ella sets out on her journey, she begins to explore some big ideas, or themes. One important theme is community. Communities are the places and people we connect to, like school and family. Another theme is individuality—what makes each of us special. Watch for these themes in the play. Think about ways our communities support us and ways we contribute to them.

“Love yourself and your expression, you can’t go wrong.” — KRS-One 2


ip-Hop’s looks and sounds first began in the 1970s. New York City teens brought together a love of music, imagination, and fun. They experimented and invented new forms of music, dance, spoken words, and art. Since then, their fresh takes on music, movement, and style have influenced people around the globe.

There are five “elements” that create Hip-Hop culture: DJing, MCing, B-Boying, Graffiti, and Knowledge. DJing. DJing is the world of the “disc jockey.” He or she works the turntables and sound system, spinning records while mixing, matching, juggling, and extending the music and beats.

Knowledge. Hip-Hop spreads a message of personal identity, responsibility, and style. It is a way of looking at the world and asking “who am I?” and “how do I relate to the world around me?”

MCing/Rapping. Rappers and MCs (short for “master of ceremonies”) take spoken-word poetry and put it to a beat. They may also create live music and songs on the spot.

Over time, each of these elements has grown to influence other creative arts. For example, many writers, playwrights, and poets have created plays, stories, and poems influenced by HipHop’s rhymes and wordplay. Fresh Noise combines all of these Hip-Hop elements in one play. Watch for each of them!

B-boying. Known as breaking, Hip-Hop’s dance style is a flowing, sometimes fearless series of steps, spins, acrobatics, and martial arts. Moves include popping, locking, freezes, and power moves. The dancers are known as b-boys and bgirls; the b stands for “break.”

Welcome to the Bronx

Graffiti/Writing. Graffiti artists display their style in colorful letters and drawings. They often paint their ideas on whatever and wherever they can reach. Today, this art style inspires the worlds of fashion,video, and film.

This New York City borough was where history, tradition, and creativity all came together to create a great mix of powerful energy. Hip-Hop pioneers like DJ Kool Herc, Afrika Bambaataa, and Grandmaster Flash lit the fuse. They took what they had around them and created the art forms that you see and hear today. The cultural explosion that became Hip-Hop has been spreading worldwide ever since.



he roots of Hip-Hop culture come from the African diaspora (pronounced dahyAS-per-uh) when African peoples were scattered to Europe and the Americas due to immigration and travel as well as the slave trade of the 15th– 19th centuries. Fortunately, long-held customs and traditions survived—even under terrible conditions. They also developed in unique ways as descendants of enslaved Africans fought for and gained freedom.

JAMAICA AND THE CARIBBEAN Jamaica, Haiti, and other islands in the Caribbean Sea developed their own musical styles. Reggae is the most famous among them. Jamaicans’ oral tradition of “toasts”—poetic praise of friends and family—shares characteristics with rap styles. In addition, experimentation with sound systems in Jamaica and other places set the stage for DJs.

WEST AFRICA The rhythms of jazz, rock ‘n’ roll, and rap echo those of West Africa. Polyrhythms are one example. Polyrhythms are different beats that sound cool when played at the same time. It is a percussion style practiced by the Yoruba, Eve, Akan, and Ibo peoples in that part of the world.

LATIN AMERICA Puerto Ricans and U.S. immigrants from Latin American countries put their stamp on Hip-Hop and kept some of the elements like breaking and writing alive. People marvel at the similarities between breaking and capoeira, (kap-oo-AIR-uh), a martial arts dance once practiced by enslaved people in Brazil.

Hip-Hop scholars also link rap’s storytelling style to the West Africa’s griot (gree-OH) tradition. Griots are community historians, poets, and storytellers. They perform their knowledge and wisdom to a beat. Watch for a griot during the performance.

UNITED STATES Music, dance, and other traditions have enriched American culture. Listen to the historic sounds and rhythms of American jazz, blues, gospel, and rock ‘n’ roll. You will hear their influence on Hip-Hop music, dance, and spoken words.











FROM WORKSHOPS TO PRODUCTION Inspired by the mashup of ideas and writing from the students, director Monica L. Williams wove together a creative team including playwright Felice Belle, a DJ, actors, and breakdancers—as well as designers, costumers, and sound artists. Together, they have worked together to bring the story to life onstage at the Kennedy Center. GET THIS STORY STARTED Fresh Noise was developed with the help of young people like you! Workshop leaders in Washington, D.C., met with middle school and high school youth. Guided by Hip-Hop themes and classic songs, the students proposed that Ella travel to different lands that sound and look just like the communities in their lives. As Ella searches for her voice, these communities advise her, teach her, and help in her journey of self-discovery.

WHAT ABOUT YOUR JOURNEY? Are you Hip-Hop? And what is your Hip-Hop journey? To set out on your own quest, ask yourself:

• What elements of Hip-Hop are most interesting to you?

• What creative ways do you use to express yourself?

• What skills come naturally? Which ones would you like to develop?

Now imagine what your own journey of self-discovery might look like. Who would you want to meet? What skills would you learn? How would it change you? In the box here, write down your ideas in a rap, story, or script—or draw it wild style.


Need more room? There’s extra space on the back cover!

David M. Rubenstein Chairman

During the performance

Michael M. Kaiser President

WATCH AND LISTEN FOR… examples of Hip-Hop’s elements, including DJing, MCing, breaking, and writing. the role the DJ plays in the story. how music and lighting are used to set the tone for different scenes. ways movement and dance are used to express emotion. what the different communities represent, or symbolize. what each community contributes to Ella’s journey. what Ella learns about herself and her world by the end of the show.

• • • • • • •

TO BE A GOOD AUDIENCE… Keep these things in mind to help you and others enjoy the show: turn off and put away your phone and other electronics turn on your imagination keep quiet once the performance begins, but… feel free to laugh at the funny parts and clap at the end!

• • • •

More room for you to Hip-Hop!

Darrell M. Ayers Vice President, Education One Mic: Hip-Hop Culture Worldwide, a program of Arts Across America, is made possible through the generosity of the Charles E. Smith Family Foundation. Additional support for Performances for Young Audiences is provided by Adobe Foundation; The Clark Charitable Foundation; Mr. James V. Kimsey; The Macy's Foundation; Washington Gas; The Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation; Park Foundation, Inc.; Paul M. Angell Family Foundation; an endowment from the Ryna and Melvin Cohen Family Foundation; U.S. Department of Education; and by generous contributors to the Abe Fortas Memorial Fund and by a major gift to the fund from the late Carolyn E. Agger, widow of Abe Fortas. Major support for educational programs at the Kennedy Center is provided by David and Alice Rubenstein through the Rubenstein Arts Access Program. Education and related artistic programs are made possible through the generosity of the National Committee for the Performing Arts and the President’s Advisory Committee on the Arts. Cuesheets are produced by ARTSEDGE, an education program of the Kennedy Center. Learn more about education at the Kennedy Center at


Go to KC Connections on ARTSEDGE students/kc-connections

The contents of this Cuesheet have been developed under a grant from the U.S. Department of Education and do not necessarily represent the policy of the U.S. Department of Education. You should not assume endorsement by the Federal Government. © 2014 The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

Fresh Noise: A Mashup of Youth Voices  

Join Ella and get “schooled” (the fun way!) by this new production that takes all the artistry, originality, and pure awesomeness of Hip-Hop...