Biting the Big Apple - Page 2

Bay Area performers storm the New York Fringe Festival

Woman on the verge: Zahra Noorbakhsh in All Atheists Are Muslim

"I was inspired by this very accomplished woman of color and wanted to give voice to her story that has been largely forgotten." Opening up an entirely different conversation, Oakland-based opera singer Angela Dean-Baham's solo show The Unsung Diva traces the history of 19th- century black opera sensation Sissieretta Jones. In a format reminiscent of Tayo Aluko's tribute production Call Mr. Robeson, Dean-Baham's one-woman work of musical theater combines American folk and spirituals with operatic arias and character vignettes drawn from the life of a woman once so influential that she was the first African American to perform at the then-unnamed Carnegie Hall. Like her hero, Dean-Baham is excited about what a successful run in New York could mean for her future.

"NY Fringe offers its artists a tremendous opportunity to put work before NY agents, producers, press, diverse audiences at a reasonable cost to self-producing artists," she said. "As a juried theater festival, they offer the immediate gratification that other artists find the work engaging and that there is an audience for the work."

San Francisco-born Aileen Clark knows firsthand the universality of a good story. Raised speaking three languages on four continents, Clark nevertheless refers to herself as the "whitest Latinita" on the planet, and her solo show How I learned to Stop Worrying and Lost My Virginity has touched a nerve among audiences of all colors and persuasions.

"I've always loved telling stories and acting out everything I see and do," she says, describing the impetus behind the show's creation. "I set out to make a play that would feel like we were just hanging out at a party and talking." With John Caldon of Guerrilla Rep and Claire Rice of AMP, she crafted a comedic coming-of-age memoir packed with 21 characters, which debuted at the EXIT Theatre in November 2009. Newly transplanted to Brooklyn, Clark hopes Virginity will help introduce her to New York audiences.

"This show definitely gives me a wonderful connection with the people who come to see it," she enthuses. "I'm hoping Fringe can be a door that opens other doors to great opportunities."

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