If you’ve set up shop under a rock, you may not have heard of hip-hop. Otherwise, you're likely to have come across this artistic form that has been slowly melting its way into the pot of pop culture. What started out as just a music phenomenon has crossed over into the worlds of fashion and film, and now has exploded full force onto the stage with the first New York City Hip-Hop Theater Festival, ending June 24 at Performance Space 122.
In fashion, names like FUBU and Karl Kani have been known for their hip hop clothing styles. Films like “Belly” and the recent “Romeo Must Die” have starred hip-hop artists like DMX, Nas, and Aaliyah (who herself was in the running for a role in Elton John’s current Broadway hit, Aida.) Now with Sean Couch and Kelly Scott’s Echo Park: A Hip-Hop Musical and the recently closed Off-Broadway show, The Bomb-itty of Errors, hip hop theatre is slowly but surely carving its own little corner in the genre.
Thus, announcing its presence, first-time producer Danny Hoch launched his Hip Hop Theatre Festival with artists from all over NYC and the country. You may remember Hoch as the writer-performer of the Off Broadway hit Jails, Hospitals, & Hip Hop. (The film version of Jails is due for a Spring 2001 release, according to production spokesperson Clyde Valentin.)
The two week festival boasts headliner Sarah Jones with her much acclaimed Surface Transit. Her show will play on at the Second Floor Theatre until August 26. The other acts for the two week festival, playing at the First Floor Theatre, were as follows:
June 14 -- Rocky LaMontanes' ALL THAT! kicked off the event with host Flaco Navaja. The night of jazz and poetry fusion features Kayo (1998 Nuyorican grand slam champion), Goodfella Mike G (HBO's OZ) and a slew of other names. June 15 -- Rolando Morales in The Last Will and Testament of Willie Shakespearican which merges the worlds of Shakespeare and a Nuyorican (New York Puerto Rican).
June 16 -- Sleeping Gods: Theater in the Spirit of Hip Hop, a Minneapolis-based collaboration of movement, sound and the words of the youth of the Juvenile Corrections Facility and the Omegon Drug Rehabilitation Center.
June 17 -- Latinflava.com presented La Santa Luz Dance Company that assimilates a mesh of dance forms: jazz, modern, ballet, tap, flamenco, African, Latin, urban and the use of sign language.
June 20 -- Starting off the second week of performances was the producer himself, Obie-award-winning Danny Hoch, who revisited his most notable work Jails, Hospitals, & Hip-Hop.
June 21 -- Washington DC’s Hip Hop Theater Junction presented its Rhyme Deferred, a story of two brothers’ struggle between the hip hop underground and its mainstream commercialization.
June 22 -- Toni Blackman, Psalmayene 24 & DJ Munch starred in their The Hip Hop Nightmares of Jujube Brown, a journey play that takes us through the life of a cop killer.
June 23 -- Slanguage by Universes, the troupe of 5 multi disciplined performers who mix poetry, theater, jazz, hip-hop, politics, blues and Spanish boleros to create their own style of theatre.
June 24 -- And closing the festival, The Gathering: A Hip Hop Journey to the Meeting Places of Black Men, written and performed by one-man sensation, Will Power.
Following the festival, Liza Colon-Zayas will take over the First Floor Theatre with her Sistah Supreme. Directed by Stephen Adly Guirgis, the comedy portrays the fears encountered by a young Puerto Rican girl and her mother living in the projects. Sistah will run June 28 - August 26, along with Jones’ Transit.
All remaining performances are $15 and start at 7:30 PM. Festival passes are available for $100. Tickets can be purchased at PS 122, 150 First Avenue (at 9th Street), by calling (212) 477-5288, or online at www.ps122.org. For more information on the festival, visit www.hiphop-theaterfest.com
-- by Ernio Hernandez