Sunday, September 7, 2008
Lemon Andersen: The Beautiful Struggle
Last year I saw the Suicide Kings, who were amazing, and I learned that I liked slam poets. So this year I went to see Lemon Andersen. I didn't know anything about him except that he is an urban poet. He all caught our attention when he jumped out from the audience and started rapping. This story starts at the end. Lemon tells us about winning the Tony and then takes us back to his childhood growing up on the streets of Brooklyn. He has had quite a full life: he lost both his parent at a young age to A.I.D.S, ran in a gang, sold drugs, and ended up in jail twice. After his second time out of jail he went to get his hair done at the barber shop and while he was there, he heard about a poetry reading. So instead of spending the money on the haircut he went to see the poetry reading. He was so impressed with the poets that he got carried away and asked the lady to put him name down to read. She told him they were full but if he heard his name he could come up. It was then that he realized he didn't have anything prepared. "I didn't have a poem, but I had experience" he said. And by God does he. His performance tonight was captivating.
So I got to thinking about biography. I'm obsessed with it. I have had many discussions with my boyfriend about the importance of an artists biography. I think it informs their work. To know an artists biography gives you a deeper understanding of their work. Of course the work can be and should be appreciated separate from this knowledge. I just think it gives you a little something extra. An inside look. An intimacy with the text. And now in my cases we are seeing one's biography become their work. This season at PCS we will be producing Storm Large's one woman show about her life. I saw her performance during JAW and was also entranced by her and her amazing life. She monologues and sings beautifully; Lemon monologues and raps; Mark Bamuthi Joseph monologues and dances; playwrights dialogue, monologue, and create text. A successful playwright once told me that you write about what you know because if you do that the work will come from an honest place. What could be more honest than preforming your biography in your chosen artistic medium. I'm not sure what this all means about American Theater or public interest, but it's just something I've noticed.