Monday night I made it through some rush hour traffic, found parking and made it just in time to check out Mu Daiko’s Taiko Flash. What a pleasure! The performers’ bodies were in sync. Even when one stepped out to perform solo, they were aided and encouraged by the ensemble with shouts and smiles. It was heart-warming to watch artists pay respect to each other with such openness. Everyone played with their whole body, a ferocious intensity, and an infectious joy. Joy in the making of music. It was pleasant to close your eyes and hear the drums beating in your blood. To hear the sound of drums, beat with meticulous skill and great care. As I listened, I kept wondering “How do they do that?”
That’s a question I’ve frequently been asking myself lately at the Fringe, especially of dancers and musicians. It has been enlightening to see my passion for theatre reflected in artists of other mediums. I wonder how long they struggled to master that lift or that beat. Something in me recognizes the craft, practice, and discipline it must take to do what those performers do. I recognize it because it’s how I throw myself into my own work. As my high school theatre teacher would say, “Spirit recognizes Spirit.” Those words have guided me for quite some time now. In fact, when spoken to me by an inspirational college instructor, they put this Detroit transplant at ease. It was then I knew that Minneapolis would be my home. Spirit recognizes Spirit.
A spirit that will not and cannot be denied is that of Tonya Jone Miller. Her performance of Threads is deeply touching in all its pain and honesty. She tells a fascinating story of an American abroad. She talks of education, diplomacy, war, and an undying love. One line that floated above everything was, “I am I.” I am I. As I sat there, I couldn’t help but think of I, my own life, relating my story to the one being told. My thoughts traveled and landed on one statement. I need to see more of the world. I love this country but we have so much work to do. As James Baldwin says, “I love America more than any other country in this world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.” I thank Tonya for a beautifully told story, one that captured me and the audience. I’ll tell you this. The audiences at the Fringe are some kind people. In all the shows I’ve seen, whether I hated it or loved it, the audience as a whole has been giving. Now that doesn’t stop them from gnashing, wringing, and ripping it to pieces just seconds later in the lobby. In some cases before they even get to the lobby. But in the moment, in the dark, while we watch, they observe with sincere generosity.
The final show of the evening was Candide by the Four Humors. I rarely enjoy comedy. I think I take myself far too seriously. So throughout the entire show, I just kept going “I don’t get it.” They are obviously a master comedic ensemble. I’ve seen their work before and participated in a workshop. But this time, I just didn’t get it. Something just wasn’t there. It seemed a product of the Fringe machine. What I did get, was Brant Miller. He has got such a phenomenal lively energy. Shout Out to former classmate C-Bard who is a boss. She does it well with passion, vulnerability, and a stunning voice. So while I wasn’t in a state of LOL. I was in a state of LOTI. Go and see it. Get what I missed.
I am I.