Monday, February 20, 2006

A journey of our own

This weekend I have an old friend coming into town to perform his one-man show as part of TBPAC's Starbucks Expanding Horizons Series - Ayinde Hurrey's Nappy Journeys.

It feels great to see someone that was in my graduate class at UF make it down here as part of the TBPAC season. When Ayinde and I met - we were like night and day. Here I was, a paunchy white goth kid with a penchant for interest in "weird plays" and on my first day I meet this well-built African-American guy with short dreadlocks and if I remember right a fimo/shell ankh around his neck. I'd heard he was a great drummer and dancer. We had absolutely nothing to talk about, and I know we both looked uncomfortable trying to find ways to relate at our first meet and greet as a class.

Despite the wholly two different worlds we came from, we eventually bonded amazingly. I think it must've been because despite our differences we were both iconoclasts in our own ways. We were the outsiders. Through our influence, our entire grad class was labeled "The Renegades" by the graduate chair for our program. Ayinde and I were most proud of that distinction. Ayinde taught me a lot about letting life flow to a degree, of giving up a desire to control things you'll never have control over. He also made me laugh - a lot. Here's a picture of us from 1996. It's pretty clear who is who.

What he's bringing to us is actually his graduate thesis, which has now undergone many years of metamorphoses. At the time, Nappy Journeys was called Nappy Roots of a Schoolboy. It's a multi-character one-person show all dealing with the overall idea of "black hair." Ayinde actually created this piece in lieu of doing a role in a mainstage show as his thesis (as I did with the titular character in Tartuffe). He'd been offered a few things, but nothing really spoke to him as an artist. So instead of just doing something to do it and get the heck out of Dodge, he took the time to develop and create his own piece.

The topic of his show had to have come in a way from his experience in grad school. At one point he was being looked at for the lead in Six Degrees of Separation, but there was a catch. His dreadlocks, now much longer than when I'd met him, would have to go. He wasn't willing to do it. That wasn't the only role he'd turn down in grad school, and it wouldn't be the only reason he ever gave. Ayinde certainly had a tremendous amount of integrity, as a person and an artist. He also put his money where his mouth was when it came to proving it. Renegade, indeed.

His tenacity though resulted in him having a whole show of his own. He's what we in the business call a "theatrical turtle." He can walk around just about anywhere with this show on his back and perform anywhere, anytime. You can certainly make a good argument for that being more useful to an actor about to embark on their career as opposed to doing a regular part in a play.

Good multi-character one-person shows - like John Leguizamo's The Freak or Eric Bogosian's Sex, Drugs, Rock 'n' Roll - are a real and rare treat to behold. I'm personally really looking forward to seeing this show again after many years and a lot of growth. It will also be nice to see an old friend. We've been on quite different paths since we left UF, but I know for a fact we've kept our "Renegade" reputation up with everything we've touched since.

- David J.

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