Ari Christopher’s “This Car Up”

February 10, 2023

“This Car Up,” choreographed by Tulsa Modern Movement’s executive artistic director Ari Christopher, tells the story of a white woman, Sarah Page, and a Black man, Dick Rowland, who rode an elevator together on Memorial Day in 1921; a scream was supposedly heard, sparking Rowland’s arrest and a provocative newspaper story about the incident. On June 1, a violent white mob killed around 300 people, mostly Black, and caused large-scale destruction in what became known as the Tulsa Race Massacre. Through both moments of violent struggle and times of tender embrace, Christopher explores hypothetical narratives about the elevator encounter: Did the man assault the woman? Were they romantically involved and her squeal was mistaken for a scream? Or did he accidentally stumble into her when the elevator stopped unevenly? “What is true for a person is heavily influenced by their position in society and the accompanying fears, resentments, and beliefs,” says Christopher. “This Car Up” was filmed by Jessica Vokoun, performed by Kevyn Butler and Roma Catania, and has been presented at 10 film festivals nationally and internationally.