The cops in TV's "Homicide" are constantly making cracks about the cultural deficiencies of their beloved Baltimore, but a Jan. `98 Festival might give them pause before launching into more withering sarcasm.
Running Jan. 15-25, 1998, MD's CenterStage will present its fifth Off Stage Festival, offering six provocative performance artists. It's quite a line-up:
* Hot Mouth: an a cappell ensemble led by Grisha Coleman, formerly of Urban Bush Women. Directed by Talvin Wilks, Hot Mouth will offer Coleman's You Say What I Mean But What You Mean Is Not What I Said,, a critically acclaimed piece that's "part alternative cabaret, part dance theatre, part party." The show played at NY's Foundry Theatre back in January. You Say runs Jan. 15-18, 1998.
* Eve Ensler's The Vagina Monologues. More than 200 women were interviewed for this look at women and their relationship to their bodies. Ensler wrote in a recent essay, "After you say the word for the hundredth or thousandth time, it hits you that it's your body, your most essential place. You realize that all the shame and embarrassment you've previously felt saying the word have been a form of silencing your desire, eroding your ambition." The Vagina Monologues runs Jan. 16-18, 1998.
The one-woman show, subtitled An Anthropological Exploration, was born when playwright Ensler realized that her work, mostly about women, was missing the connection to the female genitalia. Ensler said, "I couldn't be thinking about [liberating women] without thinking about vaginas. I wanted to know about what women were feeling about their vaginas. As I talked to women, I was so awed and amazed by what people were telling me that I began to think, 'there's a [theatre] piece here.'"
Ensler said, "The reaction to it has been really positive and not in a typical way. People have responded personally to it. They examine issues. . . when I travelled we did Q&A's afterwards, it amazed me how vulnerable people were willing to be. People have been really fantastic." * Danny Hoch, a wiz at dialects and urban characterizations, offers his latest, Evolution Of A Homeboy: Jails, Hospitals & Hip-Hop. Directed by Jo Bonney, the show just had its world premiere at CA's Berkeley Rep. Evolution evolves in Baltimore, Jan. 20-22, 1998.
* Ntozake Shange will offer her poetic piece to music, Quasar Loomiing, Jan. 23, 1998 only. Shange is best known for her 1976 piece, For Coloured Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When The Rainbow Is Enuf.
* Roger Guenveur Smith, gave one of the most gripping and uncanny performances of the 1996-97 New York season in A Huey P. Newton Story. Now that show, which played at last year's Off Center Fest, returns for three performances, Jan. 24-25, 1998.
From Newton's Louisiana childhood to his shooting death on the streets of Oakland in 1989, A Huey P. Newton Story follows the black activist's rise and fall through a "cinematic, stream of consciousness" monologue. The show won three NAACP Awards (actor, playwright and production) for its Los Angeles engagement. Newton co-founded the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense as a response to white racism in America, and the growing feeling that Martin Luther King's pacificistic call for unilateral brotherhood wasn't quite getting the job done. The self-directed monologue is taken from Newton's own written and recorded words and augmented with a soundscape designed by Marc Anthony Thompson.
Previous Smith works in which he's performed include Frederick Douglass Now, Inside The Creole Mafia and Christopher Columbus 1992. He also acted in the Public's 1989 Coriolanus and directed Culture Clash's Off-Broadway show, Radio Mambo.
* Dael Orlandersmith, ubiquitous on the downtown NY performance scene, offers excerpts from two monologues, Beauty's Daughter and Monster. These character vignettes are punctuated with "fragments of her own poetry and scraps of music." The Orlandersmith piece runs Jan. 24-25.