We’ll be boarding the train to Georgia every midnight in July 1–31, 2021 from 11:57pm – 12am with Up Until Now Collective a new artist collective creating interdisciplinary content that is radically empathetic, accessible, diverse and inclusive. The collective’s American Sign Language (ASL) cover of Gladys Knight & The Pips’ ‘Midnight Train to Georgia’ is performed by Deaf actor and dancer Mervin Primeaux-O’Bryant and Brandon Kazen-Maddox, a hearing Grandchild of Deaf Adults (GODA), dancer, choreographer and third-generation native signer of ASL. Elevating sign language from supporting role to center stage, Georgia makes music visible nightly in Times Square, synchronized across more than 75 screens in the moments leading up to midnight.
In their moving and animated rendition of the 1973 classic, Primeaux-O’Bryant signs the role of a heartbroken Gladys Knight, and The Pips are personified by Kazen-Maddox — Knight’s confidant as she rallies herself to join her lover who’s decided to leave her for a ‘simpler place and time.’ The duo incorporates Black ASL and elements of Visual Vernacular to embody an invisible train and bring to life the seductive and punchy lyrics of the original song.
Georgia is one of 10 covers of seminal musical works by Black female artists in a series by UP UNTIL NOW titled SOUL(SIGNS): An ASL Playlist, all commissioned by Broadstream Media, a new arts streaming platform.
Throughout the month of July, UP UNTIL NOW Collective will also be presenting weekly live performances in Times Square incorporating music, dance and ASL. Dates and details to be announced soon!
UP UNTIL NOW Collective was founded by Brandon Kazen-Maddox, Kevin Newbury, Marcus Shields and Jecca Barry in the summer of 2020 to gather artists who have never been brought together before. These artists, currently numbering two dozen and counting, come from multiple disciplines to create work that is joyful, challenging and necessary. Committed to inclusive, accessible, and equitable working environments, UP UNTIL NOW develops and produces new interdisciplinary work that explores empathy, intimacy, and community, and seeks to challenge the status quo by building new structures for artistic creation.
Brandon Kazen-Maddox is a BIPOC, LGBTQAI+, gender non-conforming third-generation native user of American Sign Language (ASL) and Grandchild of Deaf Adults (GODA). In 2010, Brandon received their undergraduate degree from the University of Washington, where they studied Spanish and French language and literature. After receiving their Bachelor of Arts, they moved to San Francisco, CA where they crafted a seven-year career as a professional circus acrobat. In May 2019, Brandon graduated with their Master’s degree in Dance and New Technology from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. Brandon currently lives, works and creates art in New York City, collaborating with and providing opportunities for Deaf artists who share a passion for bringing artistic works of American Sign Language dance theater to the stage, screen and beyond.
A native of Lafayette, LA, Mervin Primeaux-O’Bryant graduated from Model Secondary School for the Deaf (MSSD) in 1995. He also attended the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, where he obtained his degree in Dance Performance & Choreography. He is an actor, director, producer, choreographer, international performer, and advocate. His creative journey has blessed him with many experiences; including with Quest Visual Theatre as an assistant director, and as a consultant for American Sign Language in theatre and music videos.
Image: Brandon Kazen-Maddox & Up Until Now Collective. Georgia video still. Courtesy of the artists.