So much Friiiiinnnnnge, it has seeped into my brain and plays its own special tune on repeat. What should I see? When should I see it? Who is in it? What is it about? But I didn’t know the answers to any of these questions when I ran out of my house Tuesday night. It was 9:55pm and the Fringe Tune had been playing in my brain. I hadn’t caught any of the earlier slots. So I was craving a little Fringe. I was determined to make the 10pm slot at the Theater Garage, so I ran all the way there. To all my stalkers out there, yes, I live that close to the Theatre Garage. However, I’ve never been to a show there. So at 9:55pm I decided to just go. No idea what show was playing. Whether it had five stars or no stars. All I knew, was that some artist(s) was using the stage to tell a story. I got there just in time. I happily discovered my house mate David was house managing. You should hear some of the stories he could tell. I would definitely read that blog. Much love to all the staff and volunteers who make this event happen. Sidenote: I also was able to catch access in action at an audio-described show this week. The one patron who requested it was ecstatic to have it. Fringe You Rock!
At the Garage I got to check out Senora Butterfly and I was happy to find some color onstage. What a good show to enjoy in the evening! The audience was enthusiastic and the performers were soaking it all up. The show is clearly a project of love by the ensemble. The dancers are sinuous, passionate, exact, and clearly happy to be onstage. It was oddly relaxing to let their movement wash over me. They dance with life and vitality. Expressing. Giving. The highlight of the show is the voice of Debby Storms, playing La Tormenta. A voice with heart, pain, and truth. The music she sings is filled with history. You can hear Spain. If for nothing else, go and listen to her.
Once you’ve heard her, I hope you will go and see Laura Mahler’s eyes of light. She is the star of Walking Into Yes, a play about a painter who is losing sight. Sight of her life and her ability to see. The show struggles with technical glitches, but it is told with a painful integrity. Laura is wailing with anger and pain. Sometimes it’s a bit much on the ears, but it's always true. Your ears will love the lilting intertwined hip-hop poetry of the play. I’m not sure why it needed to be expressed as such, but I was glad to hear it. I was excited to see the perfectly landscaped Afro of Corey Walton onstage at the Fringe. Man! An AFRO! At the FRINGE! And while I’m sure there have been, will be, and are others out there. That was my first sighting and I felt a bit of pride.
If Afros aren’t your thing, check out the locks on Les Kurkendaal. YES! I made it to his Crazy Town! This Fringe loves them some Les. Folks were chanting his name as the lights dimmed. Once the show began I wasn’t sure what the fuss was all about. Les took center stage in jeans, a shirt, and a fringe button. Not sure if it was a costume or just what he decided to wear that morning. Then he began to talk to us like we were sitting in his living room. It was very off the cuff, staggered, and halting as if he was creating it as he went. There was something a little unrehearsed about it. But I didn’t care. You know why? Cause Les is a bona fide griot. A teller of tales. My grandmother would say, “He could talk you till judgement day an’ hell or heaven you’d wanna go where he went.” He is nothing but himself as he tells a story of an unconditional and inexhaustible love between mother and son. It is Dark. Personal. Tragic. But you want more of it. We travel in time as he tells stories to jog his mother’s memory. Due to dementia, she has forgotten who he is. Les reminds her with stories from their life covering racism, abortion, homosexuality, porn, and coke a cola. With each endearing story you hope with him that something will click in her mind and bring her back. It’s a true life story, live onstage. It seems to be therapeutic for Les.
It was a wonderful ride. I felt like I watching from the outside and the inside. Weird right? But I’m not sure how to explain it. When Les shared a story about being the only black family in the neighborhood, I knew that feeling. I know the feeling. Shoot, as the only black man in the audience, I was having that feeling! I love that there was someone onstage who could understand that. Another artist. Another black artist. I don’t separate who I am from what I do. Because I use who I am to do what I do. I carry my color with me. Some would say I carry that “box” with me. I say to them...you damn right. There is an exercise I do with students in my art for social change workshops. I have them write down their class, ethnicity, sexuality, gender, and religion. Then I have them scratch off a category until only one thing is left to describe them. I ask them why? Try it yourself. See what you’re left with. See what you carry.
Fringe on my brothas and sistas!