Corrections or additions?
This article by Nicole Plett was prepared for the February 6, 2002
edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Solo Turns at Passage
When is a playwright more than a playwright? When she
or he is also the featured actor in their own play.
Following close on the heels of McCarter Theater’s reprise production
by playwright-actor Dael Orlandersmith, Passage Theater opens its
second annual Solo Flights festival on Wednesday, February 6, with
the preview performance of "Manchild in the Promised Land"
starring Joseph Edward. The show opens a four-week festival of
performances that runs to March 2.
Solo Flights Festival shows are presented in repertory, on alternate
days, Wednesdays through Sundays. June Ballinger, producing artistic
director at Passage, says the festival format offers the opportunity
for interest in the shows to build over time, and by word-of-mouth,
so that playgoers can return to see all four performing artists over
a month-long time span. The festival concludes with two performances
of "Notes of a Negro Neurotic," written and performed by Nancy
Giles, playing Friday and Saturday, March 1 and 2.
"The Solo Flights Festival provides an opportunity to see original
and provocative work by superb talent, directly from New York, in
a unique solo format," says Ballinger. "Whether it’s Nancy
Hasty performing 15 characters, or Yale sensation Johnny Kwon
his athleticism with his Korean-American and surfer-boy spin,
can expect exciting theater in an intimate setting."
"Manchild in the Promised Land" (previously produced at the
American Place Theater in New York), is performed by Joseph Edward
and adapted for the stage by Edward and Wynn Handman. Its source is
Claude Brown’s classic African-American autobiography of the same
name about growing up on the streets of Harlem in the 1940s and ’50s.
Ballinger says she is finding more frequently that
actors, as they mature, are looking for ways to take their destiny
as actors more under their own control. "Instead of seeking to
win a role that fits them, these actors create a show and then work
to get it presented," she says. "I see a trend among actors
to work and not be at the mercy of the industry."
"Florida Girls," written and performed by Nancy Hasty, is
a work in the tradition of Lily Tomlin, in which Hasty creates 15
unique characters focused on a beauty pageant. Her characters include
herself as a 12-year-old, her parents, grandmother, sisters, and a
supporting cast of seven.
"Hasty’s show is autobiographical, about a white Florida woman
growing up in the Florida panhandle," Ballinger explains. "She
is someone who is both a wonderful actress and a wonderful writer,
someone whose work has value beyond just venting her own family story.
The audience can recognize themselves in the story, and recognize
a commonality of experience, particularly if it’s across
"TranceZenDance" is written and performed by the festival’s
youngest member, John Woo Taak Kwon. A recent graduate of Yale, Kwon’s
show is comprised of spoken words, stories, and dance in which he
combines his Asian-ness with his California surfer boy upbringing.
He’s also credited with a good ear for accents and a perceptive eye
for racial foibles. Kwon’s is the only one of the four shows being
developed at Passage by the artist, with Passage resident director
"Notes of a Negro Neurotic," written and performed by Nancy
Giles, is billed as a show that skewers the face of racism, both black
and white. Giles, who brought "Black Comedy: The Wacky Side of
Racism" to Passage in 1999, spent three years with Chicago’s famed
Second City comedy troupe. She played Frankie in the ABC-TV drama,
"China Beach," and her movies include "Big" and
"My one-person show is a personal monologue about what it means
to be black in this business and what `blackness’ means to me,"
says Giles. "I want to make people laugh and I want to entertain
them, but I also want to provoke thought and discussion about issues
of race, race relations, feminism, and sexism." Whereas the
’80s and ’90s taught that racial stereotypes are rude and one should
not laugh, Giles maintains that laughter is just what stereotypes
The burgeoning world of solo theater has roots in the rich
storytelling tradition brought to the U.S. during the slave trade
era. Authors, artists, and musicians have all adapted what were once
oral practices into uniquely American art forms. Solo theater also
profits from the performance art movement. Yet Ballinger notes that
each Solo Flights actor comes to their work with a mission.
Edwards, soon to be seen in a movie with Chris Rock, has a sense of
his mission that keeps him working with kids in the public schools.
And Kwon, who follows Zen Buddhism, also describes his purpose as
one of spirit uplift. "He says he’s working toward peace of mind
and working toward peace."
"I have found among these artists a sense of personal mission
that’s almost spiritually driven," says Ballinger. "They feel
a sense of purpose, a responsibility to what they see as a God-given
gift. They want to touch an audience, to heal, and to transform
— Nicole Plett
Front and Montgomery streets, Trenton, 609-392-0766. $15 & $20.
Preview Wednesday, February 6, 6 p.m. Also plays Friday, February
8, 8 p.m. Sunday, February 10, 5 p.m. Saturday, February 16, 8 p.m.
Sunday, February 24, 5 p.m.
9, 8 p.m. Sunday, February 17, 5 p.m. Wednesday, February 20, 6 p.m.
Friday, February 22, 8 p.m.
13, 6 p.m. Thursday, February 14, 6 p.m. Opening Friday, February
15, 8 p.m. Thursday, February 21, 6 p.m. Saturday, February 23, 8
1, 8 p.m. Saturday, March 2, 8 p.m.
Corrections or additions?
This page is published by PrincetonInfo.com
— the web site for U.S. 1 Newspaper in Princeton, New Jersey.