Cristina Frias in Perfecta
Written by Jesse Bliss, Diane Rodriguez, Sigrid Gilmer,
Roger Q. Mason, Tamar Halpern, Taylor Lytle & Sheila Govindarajan
Created & Directed by Jesse Bliss
Drive or stroll in, but don’t stare. You might just get a talking to in this backyard ode to motherhood gathering where “time dropped to my feet like a single drop of water.” This stand-up poetry reading is a fascinating mixed bag of song, and the occasional awkward dance, co-executive produced by The Roots and Wings Project (Jesse Bliss and Gabriela López de Dennis, Co-Producers) alongside the Houston Coalition Against Hate (HCAH). It’s wildly uneven but mostly strong, with the scenes inside of Matriarch, the transformative theatre experience streaming out into the world until October 30th, dynamically starting out loudly, driven in with a sense of purpose, shifting its form to an outdoor poetry fest that attempts to explore the roles women play in our annoyingly patriarchal society. It breaths in and out with engagement, fire, and fury, filmed live on a small poorly lit stage, bringing forth the urgent need to transform the matriarchal dynamic within. Pre-recorded from live outdoor performances at the MKM Cultural Arts Center in Los Angeles, this powerfully uneven show premiered online Friday, October 8th, and was followed by a live panel discussion moderated by Marjorie Joseph (Executive Director of HCAH) featuring creator/director Jesse Bliss (Founder and Artistic Director of The Roots and Wings Project) and local domestic violence prevention advocates including Dr. Nusrat Ameen (Senior Director of Legal Services for Daya) and Barbie Brashear (Executive Director of the Harris County Domestic Violence Coordinating Council). The performances are now available for free streaming online on The Roots and Wings Project’s Facebook Page October 15-30, Friday and Saturday at 7pm CT/8pm ET/5pm PT.
Speaking to the critical and desperate need for women in our society to be honored and respected, Matriarch digs deep, unpacking and resorting the “goddess of motherhood and fatherhood” in a succession of one-person monologue narratives, brought together and combined to form a larger stance and story in the name of “perfecta”. At a time when the patriarchy of our world oppresses the matriarchal roles across all color lines, this insistent work generally finds its solid footing, even when it stumbles off balance now and then. Presented and performed by a strong willed gang of talented female artists and their allies from around the world, inside and outside of prison, across all lines of race, class, background, sexual orientation and artistic discipline, Matriarch finds it’s centralized intersectional core within this united front and brings it forward for our enlightenment.
The all-star lineup of artists and revolutionaries finds unbalanced intrigue that engages over half of the running time, presenting its theme within this individualistic storytelling moments that include: the powerful and poetic Perfecta, written by Diane Rodriguez (Living Large at Chicago’s Teatro Luna) and performed by the magnetic Cristina Frias (The Motherf*cker with the Hat with South Coast Rep); alongside The Formula, written by Taylor Lytle (California Coalition for Women Prisoners) and performed by Morgan Danielle Day (The Karens with The Muse Collective); Code, Decode, Recode, written and performed by Jesse Bliss (The Joy Ride); Age, Sex, Location, written by Roger Q. Mason (The Duat with Center Theatre Group) and performed by Ramy El-Etreby (The Ride at Hudson Guild, Hollywood Fringe Festival); the touching and deep Remember This, written by Sigrid Gilmer (“A Series of Unfortunate Events” on Netflix) and performed by Bahni Turpin (narrator of Baby Girl: Better Known as Aaliyah audiobook); and lastly, the totally engaging and captivating Gabriel’s Monologue a eulogy, written by Tamar Halpern (Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life) and tenderly performed by the appealing Gabriel Diamond (co-creator of the Vulnerable Rally) for his mother. This imaginative and diverse theatrical work also includes an opening song written and performed by vocalist Sheila Govindarajan (Lady of the Lake). It finds its footing in singular moments that personally connect, digging into our collective heart when the internal triggers are unlocked. But, the formula also disengages that hold when the odd bit of fire misses its particularly personal mark and doesn’t connect to our internal flame. The pieces of the puzzle that work for me, might not be the stories that connects inside of you. That is the way with this kind of structure. But there is enough here, in this backyard setting surrounded by an audience of fans in folding chairs, to make this 90 minute exploration worthy of the outdoor visit online. Check it out, and see what hits your heart.
The recorded performance and panel conversation will stream FREE online on The Roots and Wings Project’s Facebook Page October 15-30, Friday and Saturday at 7pm CT/8pm ET/5pm PT after streaming live October 8th on HCAH’s Facebook pageand on YouTube. The performance will run approximately 90 minutes, with no intermission.
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