If there is one thing you can be sure of about an Off Broadway performance, especially one way down on Bank Street in the West Village, you never know what you’re gonna get. Since WAT discovered the So-Fi Festival, the series of cutting edge, low-fi, high concept, multidisciplinary solo work, we had to check out a sampling of their summer entries. Shasta Geaux Pop held in the party room of the Westbeth Community Center at 155 Bank Street, Manhattan caught our eye. The performance space was decorated with strings of white lights and electronic music pumped from large speakers. The absence of any chairs meant only one thing: the audience would somehow become part of the show.
With great fanfare, Ayesha Jordan who portrays the character Shasta, enters the room like a quasi-Cleopatra bejeweled with a Chaka Kahn-like hairdo, purple boxing robe trimmed in gold, psychedelic leggings, wrapped in a skintight outfit. Okay, maybe she looked more like an alien from another planet, a more apt comparison since there’d never been anything like this on the planet. With mic in hand, she began to tell her gospel as she saw it.
Owning the floor with a rapping, hip-hopping selection of original poems, Shasta spoke how about how we communicate with each other, how we find love with each other, while pointing out the silliness of selfies and online dating, and the lies we tell each other. And, like a feline, she roams the floor, weaving in and out of the audience with members becoming willing partners in the dance. No one in the crowd could escape her glances, or sensuous advances. Her DJ kept the beats coming, responded to Shasta’s questions, added sound effects, and cheered her on.
When asked the intention of the performance, Jordan says, “To create a safe interactive space that allows the facilitation of joy, laughter, connection, some thought provocation, and/or introspection. Shasta aims to shine a spotlight on pop culture and how we look at and treat celebrity. We have volunteers follow Shasta throughout the space with phone cameras and flashlights in hand as Shasta’s paparazzi.”
Ayesha Jordan is a NYC based multidisciplinary artist who often uses characters and stories that represent a facet of herself and act as a tool to playfully disguise herself to uniquely connect with guests. She most recently performed Shasta Geaux Pop at the High Line. Shasta’s also been presented in Amsterdam, Under the Radar Festival, Off Center Festival, La Jolla Playhouse’s Without Walls Festival, Cincinnati CAC, and The Bushwick Starr.
Shasta Geaux Pop is a collaboration between Jordan and Charlotte Brathwaite, who was named by Playbill as one of the “up-and-coming women in theatre to watch.” Her work has been seen around the world, illuminating the issues of race, sex, power “and the complexities of the human condition.”
Top photo: Julia Cervantes