NYC has so much to offer, and if you love the arts, this is the perfect place to lose yourself and escape into the tales of storytelling.
Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to see a dear friend of mine Cece Suazo, an acclaimed New York actress. Cece has worked on many fantastic projects, especially New York’s hit show last year, Street Children. It was great to get invited to participate in a play reading and open discussion of Oscar Winner, Tarell Alvin McCraney‘s WIG OUT hosted by Interfest NYC.
Interfest is a free arts and ideas festival for liberationists to radically engage, boldly express and joyously unify as a community.
This reading was during their inaugural week which took place at The Harlem School of the Arts September 22-24.
It was a full house for the reading for Wig Out, a play I’ve never heard of before; however, I was pleasantly surprised. When the reading starts, The Fates 3, the extravagant trio that sings to the daily events in a place called the House of Light, say that “Vogue is the official language” of their world. From that moment, I knew the tales of the ballroom culture would be unfolding right before my very eyes. It’s a world and culture that started in Harlem, so it was EXTRA special that this reading was taking place in the neighborhood I call home.
“The outcasts in this gutsy, pulsing portrait of uptown drag queens and the men who love them have reinvented the world from the ground up — no, make that from the Garden of Eden onward. These are people with their heroic guiding myths — of creation, nation, and divinity — and their own intricate and inviolable rules for what constitutes a home, a family, and a sexual identity.”
Directed by Dell Howlett, this reading by a masterful cast was perfection. One by one we were introduced to a group of characters who created an honest reflection of a ballroom family.
“Each soliloquy begins with the same sentence — ‘My grandmother had a wig’ — and then spins off into a different remembrance of a gender-shaping moment in childhood.”
I fell in love with the character Rey-Rey (Mother of the House of Light) played by Jamyl Dobson. Dobson shined through the play because of his relatability, but it was his passion and accurate depiction of the mother of the house. When you look deeper into the character, you witness first-hand ageism and what it feels like to be losing the essence of youth.
I laughed a lot through the reading. There were plenty of one-liners but there were also moments when I wanted to sit and cry. As an aging gay man myself, the hurt and pain were evident and a reminder that life happens.
Mr. McCraney makes it clear that for all their self-dramatizing and genuine sadness, the members of the House of Light know very well who and what they are. As they should. They are, after all, their own divine creations.
It was great to see my friend exercising her acting craft. She did a fantastic job as Serena, mother of the House of Di’Abolique.
Wig Out also has a love story that will surprise you with a peek into a world of someone struggling to be their authentic self while meeting someone new.
Nina played by Ryan Jamall Swin, is something new for Eric, played Eric Lockley, who is gay but has never had much interest in cross-dressing men. Nina woos him, beds him, murmurs poetic pillow talk and takes him home to meet the family. It reminded me of the struggles I faced when I was coming out and wanting to bring my first boyfriend home to meet my mother. It’s a ballroom coming out love story.
During the reading, my consciousness was uplifted and awakened by this play. If you’re not familiar with Tarell Alvin McCraney, he won an Oscar for Moonlight.
Back in 2008, the play hit NYC at the Vineyard Theater and most it was recently at Studio Theater in Washington DC. An added treat was finding out that, Ysabel Jasa and Jamyl Dobson were in the Washington, DC production.
I loved this reading and the open discussion added to the entire event.
I want to congratulate the cast at the reading for a job well done. I hope they bring ‘Wig Out’ back, and if they do, buy tickets and see it. You will be informed, laugh, cry, learn, and walk away with a full heart!
Note: The Wig Out video is not the cast at this reading.