The Provenance of Beauty


The Provenance of Beauty is a travelogue, performed on a bus touring the South Bronx. The audience boards the bus in East Harlem, puts on headphones and crosses Willis Ave. Bridge, and for 90 minutes eavesdrops on the voice—live and recorded—of this historic place. Claudia Rankine’s evocative text points out and reflects upon the sites that pass by outside the windows – views that to an outsider might go by unnoticed—a factory dressed up as townhouses, the theatre where La Lupe once held court, now a Pentecostal church—these are complicated places that ask what creates a neighborhood in a city in a country in the world. Provenance is a theatrical experience that both responds to and redoubles the landscape, mapping out a poetic cartography of a neighborhood—of any neighborhood— in an eternal state of evolution.


2009, September : On a bus touring the South Bronx



Co-Created by Claudia Rankine & Melanie Joseph

Written By Claudia Rankine
Directed By Melanie Joseph & Shawn Sides

Featuring:  Sarah Hayon
and the recorded voices of
 Raul Castillo & Randy Danson

Sound Design: Jeff Abbas
Video Design: Kell Condon
Stage Management: Casey Llewellyn
Line Producer: Maedhbh McCullagh

Bus Driven By: Mary Wallace



“Did you know that the ideal cruising speed is thirty miles per hour? 
Speed limits are just one example of a Traffic Calming Measure that engineers have come up with.  
Even they realize our hearts race though we sit still.”The Provenance of Beauty



Provenance makes the bustle outside the bus throb with history, mystery and meaning, as the best live performances do. An elegant theatrical meditation on a pocket of the city you might never think of exploring.” The New York Times

“Rankine’s spellbinding text reveals itself as the proud yet resentful voice of the Bronx itself, and draws provocative connections between past and present, potential and reality, borough and city, and—most affectingly—the exterior of the bus and the inside of the visitors’ heads.”  
The Gothamist

…if only for 90 minutes, the South Bronx has revitalized itself despite the rest of us … and director-co-creator, Melanie Joseph shows us its accomplishments.
TimeOut NY

“What is most exhilarating about the roving stage is the way normally unnoticed urban characters and happenings become a part of the performance – a fresh attempt to realize the conceit of city as theater and theater as city.”
Urban Omnibus
Drama Desk nominee for “Unique Theatrical Experience”