Paige in Full: She Ain’t No Joke (Joke Joke Joke)
Real talk: when I read the tagline for Paige in Full,–“a b-girl’s visual mixtape”–I rolled my eyes and thought, “A visual mixtape?! What the eff is that? Mixtape my bleep!” Since I was a child, my parents have dragged me to the theatre, and although there are a few classic films I’ve peeped more than once, I don’t remember a time in the last ten years when I attended a performance two nights in a row, unless I was in the show myself. So, when I tell ya’ll that I went to see the infinitely charming and talented brother-sister duo, Paige Hernandez and Nick tha 1da, in Paige in Full two consecutive nights, I hope you’ll understand that in the words of Rakim, “[This play] ain’t no joke…joke joke joke.”
As an emerging arts administrator, I was amazed to see an audience diverse in age, ethnicity, and background that multicultural marketing professionals like Donna Walker-Kuhne dream of. The Mead Theatre Lab, located in the creative incubator space, Flashpoint, was tiny. No, like, for real ya’ll, the jawn was like the size of a 45”. But with the Afro-futuristic projections to the side of the stage by Tewodross Melchishua, or what the hip-hop professor refers to as “visual jazz media,” the space felt a lot larger than its actual size. There was a karaoke feel up in there; throughout the show, folks were singin’ along to familiar hip-hop tracks. The audience was immediately at home in the space, connected by this culture that has imbued our lives with “joo-oooy. pain. sun-shii-iine. and rain” since we fell in love with it as kids. Within the first 30 seconds, Paige’s story became our story. And it felt good to be home.
Highlights included “Baltimore: the haiku series,” during which Paige launched into 5-7-5 character acts about crackheads, clubbers and her time at the Baltimore School for the Arts. The dancer in me was also in love with a sequence of swimming/drowning underwater movements and a crucial bass hum in a brief simulated bar encounter on DC’s U Street Corridor. But, the climax came when Paige mourned the death of fallen icons like ‘Pac, Big, and DJ K-Swift, going into a hip-hop conniption. The choreography began to disintegrate, her limbs flailing in fragmented bits of movement, until she lay lifeless on the floor. After a few moments of silence, the audience was audibly holding its breath. The discreet brother behind the turntables, Nick tha 1da, casually spun around to the front of the cassette player, ejected the mixtape and flipped it over to Side B, injecting new life into his torn down sister. She doubled back, ‘rewound,’ and it was all good. Brilliant!
The verdict: Paige Hernandez represents the truest voice of what hip-hop theatre can be for our generation: non-linear, dynamic, personal, intense, community-oriented in content and tone, and fondly nostalgic. The distinct moments of Paige’s life in this 60-minute act allowed us a window into all of our own lives, love, loss, triumphs and missteps, all with a hip-hop lens through which to examine them. There is no doubt in my mind now that #hiphoptheatreisreal and that #visualmixtapesdoexist.
Luckily, the 18 months-in-the-making Paige in Full will appear two more times this summer. For all of those who missed the first run, get Paige in Full and cop an autograph before this sister hits Broadway – or better yet, resurrects the Fly Girls for an Award Tour (with Mohammed my man). Catch Paige in Full at Sulu DC June 19th and at the DC Hip-Hop Theater Festival July 7th and 8th. The 2010 DC Hip-Hop Theater Festival takes place July 6-10.
Special thanks to Nick tha 1da for blessin’ us with an ill exclusive Couch Sessions Paige in Full mini-mix to rep the show. Listen below and enjoy!