Monday, September 11, 2017

SF Fringe Opening Weekend

Cat Brooks © W. Sabir photographer
I went to two shows Sunday evening at the SF Fringe Festival at EXIT on Eddy.  The first play, Tasha, by Cat Brooks, directed by Ayodele Nzinga is the story of a young black woman society sees as crazy. Diagnosed with schizophrenia, she grew to be the object of discrimination in the small Southern town she was born and raised.

The multimedia performance features footage from the cell where Tasha was being tased. It is a compelling story of the social stigma of mental illnesses and questions the normative wellness practices which target those persons who are different as if difference is suspect and needs to be eliminated.

Tasha also shows how little support there is for parents with children (later adults) who do not want to be medicated to fit into this pseudo normative. What if, Cat Brooks asks, what is seen as normal is really aberrant? Who in their right mind would want to adjust to that? Another question the work Tasha asks the audience to contemplate is why violence is the first response to the unknown? Tasha's response to state violence is self-defense, yet she is outnumbered and is no match for the armed intolerance whether this is guns or drugs.
Tasha tells her captors multiple times from the cell floor where they have her restrained and prostrate that she wants to go home. She tells this to the nurse, a character whose haunting observations clarify perhaps what the audience as witness refuses or is unable believe. Tasha is one of many women abused by this American judicial system. The police chief says to the press (in another video clip), Tasha should not have been in their custody. She should have been somewhere else, that her department's job was to enforce "law and order" not protect the vulnerable.  

Law and order for Tasha meant silence. When the men dressed in protective gear, pulled Tasha from her cell, force her to her knees and then prone, as she moves under the weight of 4-6 men, the playwright externalizes their thoughts so we can hear what they are thinking. None of the thoughts convey sympathy for Tasha, just annoyance at her resistance.

Other shows are: 9/12 and 9/13.  
Listen to an interview with Cat Brooks at


Amy Mihyang Ginther's Homeful is sweet work. It is a coming of age story and a travel log of a transracial adoptee who doesn't seem to fit into the definition of American. As we travel with Amy to Senegal and walk into the slave dungeon in Goree Island, get stranded in Argentina or fall in love with the protagonist in England then escape to Dublin all the while staying in touch with Mom in New York via email, a delightful story emerges of love and home across multiple landscapes where the feisty Amy armed with verve and ashay, wins almost all showdowns.

Unlike Cat Brooks's Tasha and her mother, Amy can traverse landscapes unavailable to the Tashas in this world. Amy never seems stuck, her life fluid -- home, something she can count on because her mother's love is there, her father, siblings and an array of friends (she introduces her audience too) are also present for guidance and support.

This show continues the personal saga for Amy who tells the story of meeting her adoptive family in another show. I am quite amazed at her fluency in multiple languages. Visit to listen to an interview with Amy at

KPFA Posse: Kirsten Thomas, Cat Brooks & Mitch Jeserich
(UpFront Hosts) 
 © W. Sabir photographer
Amy Mihyang Ginther (Homeful) © W. Sabir photographer

SF Fringe 2017 Artists: Irma Herrera (Why Would I Mispronounce My Own Name
 with Amy Mihyang Ginther (Homeful) 
 © W. Sabir photographer


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