I am Woman, Hear Me Sing, Rhyme, and do Standup Comedy...
I've always been a bit wary of shows that bill themselves as "performance art." Ever since seeing one such show in which a man swallowed and regurgitated a live goldfish, I've come to regard the genre with apprehension as some weird hybrid monster, neither drama, poetry, music, nor dance.
Happily, "Women in Music, Movement and the Moment," directed by Tracy Kato-Kiriyama, was not one of these shows. The show, which ran November 21 through 23, was a fun and heartwarming, serious but not-too-serious collection of performances by a group of mostly minority women from the Los Angeles area. Settling down in the cozy Highways Performance Space tucked away in a dead-end street in Santa Monica, the audience was invited to laugh, relax, and sing along to the sounds of Justin Timberlake. While many of the performers touched upon more serious subjects such as domestic violence, and racial stereotyping, they did so with humor and grace.
The show kicked off with two spoken word performances by Faith Santilla, whose sonorous and powerful voice gave a rhythmic urgency to her well-delivered second piece, "Jumbo's Clown Room." Santilla is a talented writer as well as a commanding performer.
Next, Tracy Kato-Kiriyama and Phloe traced the lineage of the infamous "bowl cut" (that unfortunate hairstyle favored by Asian parents and suffered by Asian American children during the 70s and early 80s) through its various incarnations, from the Dorothy Hamill cut to the Bruce Lee, and finally revealing the style's original inventor-hairstylist Yusuke Suga. To the delight of the audience, childhood photos of the two performers in the offending do's were projected on the screen behind them. (Kiriyama sported a semi-bowl-cut with a cowlick, and Phloe's textbook-perfect bowl is just heartbreaking.)
Early on, the show set its tone as a collection of upbeat, entertaining performances that infused hip-hop, dance, poetry and comedy with musings on sexual and racial identity. The performance was infused with some minor star power, as Keiko Agena of the WB's Gilmore Girls appeared in several pieces, and the performance was energized by dances choreographed and performed by HEREandNOW Theater Company's Tammy Yamada.
Alison De La Cruz closed the show with excerpts from her show, "Naturally Graceful," exploring the angst of being an overweight teenager as she tried on clothes that inevitably wouldn't fit her at the West Seal and was regularly placed in the back row during dance recitals. De La Cruz recounts these tales with hilarity, but her lighthearted last act, "Flipper and Shit," was the funniest, as De La Cruz acted out her childhood fantasy of becoming a marine biologist at Sea World. De La Cruz was adorable as both Flipper and her trainer, and the act was a sweet and heartwarming ending to the show, reminding the audience of that innocent time in fourth grade when half the class wanted to become marine biologists. De La Cruz's childlike exuberance was perfect for the piece, and the curtain dropped leaving the audience with a little bit of bittersweet nostalgia for a time when it didn't hurt to be a woman, or Philippino, or overweight, or even to have a bowl cut.
December 12, 2003