Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Exhale: Onward From Here

Reviewed by the Reviewed
 So, my play's run in the Capital Fringe Fest is over, ending Sunday after a five-day run. I am bone tired. The experience in Fringe was both exhilirating and extremely frustrating at times. Over 150 folks came over the course of the five days to check out the play and we got some great feedback from the folks who came to check it out. One client of mine, who is also a former classmate, was one of our biggest supporters, coming out to our teaser show and the play. She wrote me "I am loving the show! It was fabulous. Made me laugh, clap, even cry when Dionne sang “Something Else”. 4 stars for sure…” I wish she was one of the critics who had blog space in cyberspace. The two reviews that were written about the play by online media were insulting at best and biased at worst-- written by directors/writers/friends of other productions in the Capital Fringe Fest. One person wrote about DC Theatre Scene-- one of the spaces that reviewed my play-- "...it looks like reviewers with shows in Fringe are giving poor reviews to give their shows a better shot at getting an audience....an appearance of bias makes it hard to trust any reviews on this site." I appreciated reading that because it let me know that I was not alone in thinking the same thing.

Late Seating, C'mon, we talking about CPT
Fringe had no patience for Colored People TIme (CPT) which also stands for Caucasian People's Time and Chinese People's Time. It really is applicable to anyone who shows up at an event late as hell. For each of the shows (we had five), at least five people were not admitted in because they were late. I know, because those are the ones I found out about. Imagine the ones who weren't people I knew. I think that was a bit much. Our stage was not like others. If folks came in late, they could slink in and not be too disturbing. I think I should have been asked if I wanted that to happen rather than it be a blanket Fringe rule. That rule kind of caused a problem with my brand since I do events outside of the Fringe fest. One husband of one of cast members came from Baltimore from work and was turned away because he was five minutes late. C'mon now. It wasn't like we were able to start late to give folks a chance to come in. The Fringe staff were on us like white on rice prompting us to start on time, get out of the venue on time, etc. I want to take time in this space to say to those who were turned away, in the words of the lovely Lenny Kravitz and Mos Def, "It Ain't My Fault". But I'm sorry.

Cultural Differences, Not Necessarily a Race Thang
I had some good moments being in Fringe this year. But, honestly, I had a better experience last year. Maybe, because I was producing my show this year and had to work wayyy harder. Last year, I was an actress, writing some of the vignettes we performed. Jessica Solomon, the founder of the Saartjie Project was really the producer of our show last year. We got a lot of attention last year. This year, while the pre-festival buzz was awesome, we only got the sucky two reviews I mentioned above. I guess I learned that the Capital Fringe Festival was not the place to find an audience for my play this year. We had an audience-- our last two shows had about 50 folks respectively-- but most of those who came out were regular attendees to past Liberated Muse events, and friends and family of the cast. All of those folks I met at the Capital Fringe Opening event, nah. Didn't see them.

It would be too easy to say it was a race thing, I think that would be simplifying my sense of displacement. I think it was a cultural thing, if that makes any sense to those who look at culture and race being the same thing. It isn't. I think there were folks who were Black who came to see the play but didn't "get it" because they didn't have kids. Parenting is a culture in itself as is. I definitely think it is hard for the story of mothers to be recognized as a piece of value if there is not some over-the-top dramatic subject piece. Maybe if one of the mothers was also a murderer. Hmmm. But, really, I think it is a taste thing. My play was not the flavor folks frequenting Fringe wanted to taste. Where Running: AMOK was soulful, bluesy and committed to giving voice to the fears that overwhelm new mothers and those of us who aren't new mothers but still trying to find balance, the Capital Fringe Festival audience was more about quirk and wackiness that my play, alas, did not possess. To say it wasn't a fit is an understatement. For instance, the shows voted by the Fringe audience as being the best were about the Super Claudio brothers inspired by the Donkey Kong video game, Sleeping Beauty-- a puppet ballet, and a solo show about Killer Robots. Many of the folks who came out to see our show were friends and fans of the cast and Liberated Muse. So, I feel inspired and confident to produce the show, maybe next year, with the DC Black Theatre Festival next year. The festival debuts this year next month and I am thrilled to be presenting a workshop. My experience in Capital Fringe truly shed light for me personally why it is imperative that a festival like the DC Black Theatre Festival exists.

The Beautiful Thing About It Was...
But there isn't only complaint about the show's run. No, not at all. This half-year producing the play has been overwhelmingly positive. Here are some of the highlights:

1.) The AMAZING Talent that participated in the play
Ok, how lucky was I to have FOUR singers in my musical? And, not just anyone, really good singers. I met three of the singers-- Teisha Marie, Dionne and Angela "Anonamas" Ballard through activities connected to Liberated Muse and Quineice and I go way back. Yet, all of them auditioned to participate and I was thrilled. You can't get better vocalists than these ladies. Sudani Scott and Lyn Artope, though not professional singers, are professionals when it came to acting. Both made their stage debuts in my play and I've been told time and time again that their scene together is the best, acting-wise, in the play. It was truly a pleasure working them all and I look forward to working with some of them in future productions. I told Lyn that she better be ready because I'm gonna come calling!

2.)Able to work with Gary and Angie again
So, if you follow my blog, then you may recall past posts where I talk about my singing gigs where my boy Gary Young typically would accompany on guitar while my girl Angie Shaw would add support vocals. Well, if it wasn't clear then, then I need to reiterate how much I love them. We have so much fun together. This play allowed us to work together again, but in a very different capacity. Gary composed the instrumentals to all of my songs and Angie was the Assistant Director for the play. She turned out to be the mama to the cast, often filling in at rehearsals when I was out promoting or unable to attend for other reasons. She also was invaluable during the play as the stage manager since I was doing tech during the play. Working with her and Gary during the play was a definite highlight.

3.) The teaser show before the play
To promote the play, I had an event about a month before the play to get the word out. I called it a teaser show where excerpts and songs from the play were performed and the singers gave a mini concert. The show was probably my most well-attended event this year (aside from the play). It was great and really fun to plan. It was a great networking opportunity as well.

Me and the cast of Running: AMOK w/Binah & Margaux of the Saartjie Project
4.)Being Supported
The number of familiar faces who came out to support the play was overwhelming. I cried just thinking about it. I mean, there were two women there who were childhood classmates that I hadn't seen in over 20 years! It was beautiful, the level of support I received. I blogged about it on the play's website-- about how many female entrepreneurs were in the audience. I hoped the play was inspiring to all of them. Those that gave feedback had really great things to say. I would have to say that my dad's presence was the most touching. He gave me a standing ovation at the end of the night and keeps calling me to tell me how proud he is. That means so much. I didn't grow up with him, reconnecting only recently, so, his attention is like being a little kid all again.

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