How does the past influence the way we love? Princeton senior Silma Berrada investigated this question and combined her interdisciplinary studies to craft a story about two Black artists who fall in and out of love. From auto parts to love letters, family memories to COVID quarantine, Berrada details the simultaneous growth of her senior thesis project and herself as she realizes a story cannot be told without the existence and investment of community. As an English major pursuing certificates in creative writing, theater, visual arts, and African American studies, this community included her faculty advisors — theater director Shariffa Ali, playwright Nathan Davis, photographer Deana Lawson, poet Rowan Ricardo Phillips, and visual artist Kenneth Tam.
What I wanted to be a simple love story didn’t end up being a simple love story. It became more complicated. It became more of a question of, how does the past influence the way we love?
— Silma Berrada
Berrada’s thesis project, B+M, or The Bittersweet Ballad of Blessed and Messiah, premiered on February 18 and 20 as part of the Program in Theater’s New Works Festival I at the Lewis Arts complex. On February 19, Berrada invited the community to view an art installation in the CoLab that served as the visual arts component of her thesis.
Last summer, Berrada began preparing for her thesis project with support from an Alex Adam ’07 summer funding award from the Lewis Center. She conducted archival research and digital and in-person fieldwork within Black communities in Miami, Florida, to gather information on laws, policies, customs, and personal narratives from the past 400 years in order to best craft her original, new work.