Hip-Hop Theater Festival
nytheatre.com review by Richard Hinojosa
June 15, 2005
The Hip-Hop Theatre Festival is now celebrating its fifth annual presentation with an incredible international lineup. If you are unfamiliar with Hip-Hop theatre then this is your chance to become acquainted with this relatively new fusion of theatre, music and perspective. The beats and poetics of Hip-Hop and the fresh voices of this generation are what drive this new form. It’s definitely worth a look. This festival offers a lot—music, poetry, theatre, and dance—but there is very little time to catch it. So check it out before it’s gone.
All performances are one-night-only affairs so I can tell you about the amazing performance I witnessed but you won’t have the pleasure of catching this particular show. Titled Solo Series 1: Witness to War, the program was comprised of two seasoned solo performers: Jerry Quickley doing an excerpt from Live for the Frontlines: Petrol & Protein and Yuri Lane also doing an excerpt from his show From Tel Aviv to Ramallah.
Quickley begins the night with a story about his trip to Iraq to cover the war for Pacifica Radio. His goal was to let the unfiltered voices of the Iraqi people be heard. He went in as an un-embedded journalist and was able to speak with ordinary people on the street. He was staying at the Palestine Hotel when the “Shock and Awe” campaign began. Part of his story is about the first time he saw death as a child and this proves the perfect setup for what is to come. His performance is a brilliant mixture of poetry and prose and he also mixes in a little video from his trip along with some great music.
Jerry Quickley is blessed with many things. Among them—a golden voice, mad storytelling skills, and the uncanny ability to sculpt language into ribbons of social relevance wrapped around pillars of lyrical beauty. I’ve seen many shows this past year but I cannot remember being moved so profoundly to laughter and tears as I was by this too-short one-man performance. At the end of the show the lights blackout and Quickley walks offstage with no bow, leaving us all wanting more. This just proves that Quickley is all about the truth in his content and not the glory of his talents.
Yuri Lane bills himself as a human beatbox. He tells the story of his travels in Israel using a smattering of words but mostly through his extraordinary ability to produce beats and various other sounds using nothing but a mic and his mouth. Lane’s story is about two young men, one from Tel Aviv and the other from Ramallah, whose fates are destined to intertwine. He establishes certain sounds and/or beats for every location and makes other distinctions using movement or voices. I found his story and performance very engaging but once I figured out where the story was going I wanted it to get there a little quicker. The ending is very powerful but Lane’s writer/director Rachel Havrelock needs to tighten up the middle just a bit.
Computer VJ Sharif Ezzat provides Lane with a great video collage that Lane uses as a backdrop. Lane also choreographs much of his movement to the collage, making the program as stimulating visually as it is audibly.
You still have this weekend to see the final performances of the 2005 Hip-Hop Theatre Festival. I truly wish I could tell you that you have plenty of time to take in this remarkable form of theatre but you don’t. Maybe next year the producers of this festival will extend the run to two weeks instead of just one (hint, hint).