Reimagining history through radical art

The Haus of Glitter—including Matt Garza ’11, Abbi Page ’22, and Becky Bass ’13—are making change through the power of performance.

Behind the Performance


A look at The Haus of Glitter's activist dance opera, "The Historical Fantasy of Esek Hopkins."

The legacy of Esek Hopkins is complicated, to say the least. He’s widely known for leading the Continental Navy’s fleet during the Revolutionary War, but was later terminated and censured by Congress. He was also the captain of the slavery ship Sally, hired by the Brown brothers.

In recent years, an unexpected group has taken up the work of reshaping the narrative around this legacy.

Enter The Haus of Glitter—a queer- and BIPOC-friendly dance company. Since December 2019, the Providence-based group has been living in the former home of Hopkins as part of a two-year artist residency with the City of Providence. The culmination of this residency is an activist dance opera titled “The Historical Fantasy of Esek Hopkins.” With a site-specific workshop performance staged at the Hopkins residence in fall 2020 and 2021, the performance tells the story of the kidnapped African woman who hanged herself onboard the Sally.

“Our work is to honor this woman and recognize the legacy she left behind by positioning Esek’s legacy as a fantasy and bringing together the missing pieces of her legacy,” says Matt Garza ’11, creative director of the project. “Our historical fantasy represents a more empowering perspective on the story by filling in the nameless Black and brown bodies who were kidnapped, tortured, and brought across the Atlantic Ocean.”

It's a gift to be able to continue contributing to Brown's campus and to be able to mentor other queer students of color at Brown.…I feel empowered in a whole different way to support the Brown community, to grapple with its history and re-imagine its future.

Matt Garza ’11
Matt Garza '11. Photo credit: Rey Londres.

A commitment to community

Collaboration, openness, and immersion were critical for the artists from The Haus of Glitter. The spirit of collaboration extended into the Brown community; during the project, The Haus of Glitter welcomed seven interns from Brown to assist in their work. 

One intern, Abbi Page ’22, felt especially at home with The Haus of Glitter’s emphasis on engaged scholarship and the project’s community-oriented values. Page first connected with The Haus through Brown CareerLAB’s SPRINT program, which offers funding for unpaid internships and helps students find opportunities with pre-vetted organizations. 

“I had never heard about the Haus [of Glitter] before the SPRINT program, and so that allowed me to research their values and the work that they do. They're very community centered and really centered around community healing. That's something that I want to do with my own art in the future,” says Page. “What inspired me is their call to heal their community through their art making practices. ‘The Historical Fantasy of Esek Hopkins’ project aims to address the biases that already exist in history while also allowing for growth and creation and dreaming of alternate histories.”

A summer with The Haus gave Page inspiration for their final year of undergraduate work. Page’s honors thesis in Africana Studies is exploring “Black and queer temporality, Black feminist disruptions of it, and how that in turn can lead to community change and community healing,” using The Haus of Glitter and “The Historical Fantasy of Esek Hopkins” as a case study of these concepts. Brown’s curricular freedom and community-based scholarship have allowed Page  to dive into this work.

The impact of Brown’s resources 

As they created the dance opera, The Haus of Glitter’s team, including several Brown alumni and current undergraduate and graduate interns, dove into historical research about Hopkins, the Sally, and its owners—the Brown brothers. The Haus felt that the resources of Brown’s archives empowered the project’s goals of recognizing the history of colonialism and racism at the core of the house. 

“One of the greatest archival gifts of this residency is the John Carter Brown Library's collection and research around the voyage of the slave ship Sally,” Garza says. “Archives have a complicated dynamic in this residency because we're both grateful for them, and we're also protesting what archives represent and who archives represent and what narratives are represented in the archives. Being able to read the letters and see high quality photographs of Esek Hopkins’s own writing to the Brown brothers really just helps us tap into the reality of this space.”


Matt Garza '11 (top left) and other members of The Haus of Glitter pose in front of the Esek Hopkins House.
Photo credit: Erin Smithers.

Paying it forward

The Haus of Glitter is extending their connections with the Brown community beyond their research in the stacks. In April, the dance company discussed their takeaways from their time in the Esek Hopkins house as part of a four-day series organized by the John Nicholas Brown Center titled “Inheritance: How Communities Are Responding to Controversial Artwork.”

After recently visiting the John Carter Brown Library to view the archives of the Sally voyage (including Hopkins’ logbook), The Haus is discussing collaborations with the library and the John Hay Library as they prepare to stage their performance and co-host a creative liberation conference and festival in the fall.

“It's a gift to be able to continue contributing to Brown's campus and to be able to mentor other queer students of color at Brown,” says Garza. “Having Brown's campus be just down the street and having a new relationship with Brown…I feel empowered in a whole different way to support the Brown community, to grapple with its history and re-imagine its future.”


Learn more about The Haus of Glitter’s work at and