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These articles were excerpted from Tapestry, a weekly newsletter that examines the arts and entertainment world in Charlotte and North Carolina.

This immersive show dispels the myths of Black swimming in Charlotte

Two people in dark with blue lights
Handout art
Left to right, actors Nasha Shandri and Sunnee Goodwin in the SwimCap production.

There are few better feelings on a hot summer day than dipping into the cool water of a pool or a lake — no matter the color of your skin.

The creators of a new immersive experience titled "SwimCap" hope to share that feeling with Charlotte audiences this weekend, and dispel the notion that swimming isn't for African Americans.

The small ensemble of actors began a rehearsal this week by taking deep breaths — the kind a swimmer might take before plunging into the deep end. And the actors in this new work by Mixed Metaphors Productions are taking a plunge.

The group's cofounder, K. Alana Jones, said the idea came from an African American swimming club in Charlotte.

"We thought it would be interesting to talk about debunking the myths of African Americans and swimming with proof that there are swim teams right here in Charlotte," she said.

Actors and production staff took that idea, and as a group, wrote and created a theatrical experience that puts a critical lens on the idea that swimming isn't for people of color. That idea is rooted in segregation and unequal access to pools, and it can be deadly. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for example, says Black children ages 10 to 14 are almost four times as likely to drown as their white counterparts.

The work includes art pieces, an aerial performance and Charlotte history

Director and company co-founder Kat Martin said the show is based on real-life stories from actors and from Charlotte's past.

"You'll meet characters from three different time periods. You have someone from the 1920s, which is actually when the pools were segregated. You have someone from the 1960s, which is a very famous period of wade-ins, and then you have someone in contemporary times," she said.

In one scene, a young girl standing on the edge of the pool at Johnson C. Smith University conquers her fear with a push from her brother.

"Splish! My dive was perfect! It was tens across the board!" she exclaims.

In another scene, a woman recalls dipping into the cool water of a community pool as a child in the early 1900s.

"I felt weightless. All the tension I had carried all my life melted away," she says.

Because the show is immersive, audiences will move — or let's say swim — through uptown's Grace AME Zion Church to hear from characters and view a related aerial performance and art installations.

One art piece includes the voices and images from Charlotte's Evolutionary Aquatics swim club, which inspired the piece. Brandon King said he and his wife learned to swim with the club about a year ago.

"My wife and I enjoyed it so much that we actually became instructors," he said.

They and others gave recorded interviews to production staff and their pictures will appear in a collage of pool tiles.

"So we'll be a part of the exhibition," he said.

The show is partly based on actors' real-life stories

Actor Nasha Shandri said she joined the project in part because of the subject it tackles.

"I personally can't swim," she said, "so I thought this would be great for me to overcome my fear of swimming and the water if I had more of a logical understanding."

She's still learning but said the production has helped her rethink swimming as an African American.

"Because a lot of times it's psychological. If you think that's something that you can't do, you sort of stray away from it, or you build this invisible barrier, so that can be a learning curve too, and that's what I think it was with me," she said.

Fellow actor Sunnee Goodwin said the project feels especially personal to her because of her character, Martha Jean.

"My character's name is my mother's name, so it's in honor of my mother," she said.

Goodwin said her monologue is based on her own life experiences, like getting baptized in Charlotte's Clear Creek.

"When it's real like that, it's kind of like — you're vulnerable with it, and it's like, okay, can I trust giving this out?" she said.

Actor Ceci McNeill said by setting the record straight that swimming has been a part of Black culture for generations, she hopes more people will try it out.

"You might like it, you might love it, you may be a natural at it, you have to work at it, but definitely go out here and try new things, and don't be scared," she said.

Audiences hoping to take the dive will have limited time to do so. Shows run Friday through Sunday, Aug. 18 - 20. Tickets are $20 on Eventbrite.

WFAE's weekly arts and entertainment email newsletter, Tapestry, will keep you in the loop on arts and culture in the Charlotte region.

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Nick de la Canal is an on air host and reporter covering breaking news, arts and culture, and general assignment stories. His work frequently appears on air and online. Periodically, he tweets: @nickdelacanal