May 20 – New new works.
Last Friday I met my theater-attendance partner up on Capitol Hill, for a lovely dinner at Boom Noodle (I love their beef yakisoba!), and then for a evening of new works at the Broadway Performance Hall. This time the new works were focused on emerging African-American artists. The show, the Creation Project 2008, was put on by the Central District Forum for Arts and Ideas.
I went specifically to see my one teacher Gin Hammond, perform the first act of her new play, Returning the Bones, which is the story of Gin’s aunt. A description from the program:
In 1946 a young black medical student from rural Texas wakes up to find she has been chosen to represent Howard University in a war-ravaged Europe, for the Students’ International Clinical Congress. Returning the Bones is the true story of Dr. Caroline Montier, and how her life is altered upon visiting Auschwitz, and oh that trip taken in 1946 will be finally completed at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC, 61 years later.
The staging was simple, just a few platforms stacked center stage. Behind was a screen which had photographs that related to the story, most seemed to be family photos and clippings from newspapers. Gin played everyone in the play, doing different voices, accents, and body-language as needed.
It was quite a feat to watch. The amount of material to learn, the lines to memorize, and the characters to differentiate must have been a huge task. I think it would be extremely difficult to play both sides of a conversation, trying to keep the two characters as individuals, when you are using just the one body. I find it is hard enough with another actor to pull off a scene.
There were some technical glitches during the performance, such as the photos projected up on the screen seemed to be out of synch with the storyline. They seemed to be coming in too early, and there were some sound and lighting miscues, but this was a problem that plagued all the performances.
At the end of the first act, which is all Gin performed, you were left wanting to know what was going to happen next, which is great. You’ve done your job as an actor if you leave them wanting more. I look forward to seeing the whole enchilada.
The other two performances were a dance, multimedia, and spoken word piece called Excerpts from the Soul of a Woman by Vania C. Bynum, that “explores the struggles that women face, as well as the triumphs an beauty of being a woman.”
The first part interlaced an Iraq war documentary Female Faces of War played on a rearscreen at the back of the stage, with dancers dressed as soldiers, and also as Iraqis. I liked this part of the piece the best. It was the strongest emotionally. The film set the situation and established the tone, that was then expressed by the dancers. The dancers portrayed the abuse of women soldiers at the hands of their fellow male servicemen, a point brought up in the film, the death of Iraqi civilians and children, and the grief of family members over the loss of a soldier.
The second and third parts seemed very separate from this first part, actually they seemed completely different pieces. The situation was not helped by lighting and sound miscues, which confused the audience into thinking it was intermission, and people started to get up and leave during a transition, because the house lights came on.
In any case for me the second and third sections lacked the punch of the first. There was a spoken word piece that started section two that was cool, but after that it was standard modern dance. For me: yawn.
The second piece was hiz-stare-i-cal! CoochieMagik by Christa Bell. From the program:
“CoochieMagik brings a woman’s gospel to the altar of the stage. Fusing poetic text, stand up comedy with elements of Women’s Transformational Theater and Hip-Hop, Coochie Magik is an ecstatic performance ritual that empower a new context in which women experience their bodies and sexuality is holy…”
Which is a fancy way of sayin’, “Women, love your coochie and all that goes with it.” Christa Bell had the place rolling. Her ability to transform the spoken word into something beyond, speech and into the realm of the physical amazed me. The words became entities, almost physical objects, that were arranged in towering pinnacles and sultry valleys. What does that mean? Who knows, but it was cool to watch.
Christa Bell has won the National Poetry Slam and you can see why. If you have a chance to go see this when she performs it again, do it!
So, another night of good stuff. I look forward to more in the future from the performers.