Staceyann Chin's Motherstruck!: Leaning In
After seeing Staceyann Chin's one-woman performance at the Hopkins Center, I can attest that everything you might have read about her is true. A promotional poster called Motherstruck! "a bullet-train ride." The New York Times called Chin "a magnetic presence." My favorite (because I swore at various points, and could not quite believe my eyes, that she was physically channeling Lucy) is that "Staceyann is a genius mash-up of Maya Angelou and Lucille Ball." In introducing Chin at the Moore Theater, one of the show's producers said that any advice to "sit back, relax and enjoy the show" would be misguided; instead, she invited the audience to "lean in."
My own metaphor might be this. Chin is fire, in many forms. There are sweet moments of nostalgia that glow gently like the lit end of a cigarette in a dark room, some cozy memories like the warmth from a fireplace. There is plenty of light being cast from her flame, as she illuminates the realities of immigration, single motherhood, the joys and sorrows of being a lesbian in a world that can be welcoming or not, poverty and its cousin, just-getting-by, and even her life decision to be a poet. And then there are the blowtorch moments when Chin is blistering. Voice raised, she stomps off the stage and up the theater's center aisle, back to the stage to stand and proclaim from atop the only thing on the set--a thinly upholstered narrow bench. There's some anger in this play, thank god, which is something we don't always get to hear from women. And she's funny.
Chin covers a lot of ground in just over an hour. Among the best is the narrative of her decision to become a mother and how her plans continued to fall through. But no failed plan could stand up to Chin's tenacity. Her story, complete with full-body enactment of labor and delivery, should be seen by everyone, and as she notes, stands as a testament to women's difficulties in pregnancy and childbirth that are mostly unsung. Her work sings them true, and loudly.
I have a fondness for autobiographical pieces like this. What would the world be like if we all just told our life stories, with candor and authenticity, without apology? Maybe a little exhausting; after this performance, having leaned in, I felt just a bit worn out. But also enlightened on any number of issues. And maybe full of a little fire myself.
Chin is a writer, playwright, poet, activist, and performer. She identifies as Caribbean and black, Asian and lesbian, woman, AND as a resident of New York City. She will be appearing next in Motherstruck! in Washington DC.
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