Opening night of this year’s Fringe Festival featured the thoughtful storytelling of Tricia Rose Burt in her performance, I Will Be Good.
At what point does a story go from anecdotal to universal? Is it when the audience laughs at a joke or when the audience murmurs its recognition of a shared experience? It was interesting to analyze that question while watching this show. The woman sitting next to me was almost communing with Burt, nodding along to the story, the way one does in church when feeling particularly in tune with the sermon. Several collective gasps and guffaws later, I heard another viewer telling someone that she knew exactly how Burt felt. In a group of strangers, Burt had the power to generate a sense of belonging, which is especially powerful because most of her monologue was about feeling out of place, without a tribe to call her own.
Tricia Rose Burt grew up during a time in the South when life was almost pre-determined. She was the white, privileged daughter of a prominent Florida businessman. Her goals were set upon birth: receive a good education, work towards prosperity, find a good husband, and raise a family with the exact same values. There was no room for deviation from the plan. But as Burt discovered, almost too late in the game, this prescribed life of hers wasn’t working. And she did what many of us long to do; she broke the cycle and started over.
Her story isn’t new, of course (think Eat Pray Love). Her life struggles are benign compared to the “real” problems of the world. But that’s what makes it compelling… and necessary. Yes: there are people starving to death in Africa right now. There are people dying every day in wars all over the world. And there are people being diagnosed with incurable diseases (and some of them are children). But there are also the everyday people with routine problems like Burt’s, those who only want to be happy and can’t seem to find the “answer.” And for them, I Will Be Good is a nice story to hear.
Burt chronicles her life with humor and grace, opening the performance with a tale of the apparent demise of her starter marriage and lucrative career. As she takes stock of her life (prompted by an birthday “ending in zero”) and redirects her energies to more creative pursuits, it becomes clear that her home is the stage. She could’ve easily become another Suze Orman, dispensing public relations advice to the masses instead of financial planning (or better yet, a reverend). Instead, she works her way through art school, dumps her husband, and makes the first unscripted decisions of her entire life. I Will Be Good is a testimony to actually being good: to yourself, not to the ideals created for you by other people. Always a worthy lesson to learn and even better when taught by a woman who can laugh at herself, mock her pain, and enjoy her successes, great and small.
I Will Be Good
15th Annual New York International Fringe Festival (FringeNYC)
The Players Theatre
115 MacDougal Street
Performance dates are:
Friday, Aug. 12, 8:45 p.m.
Wednesday, Aug. 17, 9:45 p.m.
Sunday, Aug. 21, noon
Friday, Aug. 26, 5:45 p.m.
Saturday, Aug. 27, 2 p.m.
For more information about the show, go to: www.triciaroseburt.com