INOLA ON THE AISLE@ MITF: FALL
Jewel Box Theatre @ Workshop Theatre Company
312West 36th Street, 4nd Floor, New York, NY
On Tuesday, November 10, 2015
The audience sees a piano and microphone on the stage. Steve enters the stage and he interacts immediately with the audience. He instructs Bill Gulino, his piano player to play the melody in B-flat. Steve gets back to his introduction and he informs the audience that his show-business career began at the Palace Theatre in 1938 when he was five years old.
Steve takes the audience through a series of songs as he gives an oral history of his career and the places and people he met along the way. Steve asks the audience for its preference, as to what he should sing; and he adheres to the audience wishes. He sings a Blues rendition that took the audience back in time. Steve gives the audience a rare brand of showmanship in his performance.
Steve brings the horrors of life alive in song, and he tells a story of a man he met at a barber shop whose story almost made the audience cry. He brings the audience back to World War II, and before he delivers his story in song, he allows the audience to get a glimpse of how the southern states were like for blacks less than 75 years ago. The barber shops in many states in the north were the hub of black lives where they congregate to get a haircut or just to socialize with their friends and acquaintances.
Steve tells the story of a black man who served in the military during the WWII, and when he returned home to the south; he became friendly with the daughter of the man who owned the general store in the community. It was forbidden for black men to fraternize with white women at one time in the southern United States. This soldier boy befriended this white woman and the news got back to her father. Steve tells the story that soldier boy had to get out of his community in haste because the white woman’s father wanted to teach him a lesson. In those days, lynching was a common endeavor for white men to carry out against black men. Soldier boy didn’t want to find out his fate. Some may consider him a coward, but he skipped town in order to save his life.
The white woman found herself pregnant and helpless, and the black minister in the community gave her a job as his maid. Years later, the lady was dying and she managed to write a letter and mail it to the soldier. The lady left out some pertinent information, the part about her dying; but soldier boy took the trip back to his community. Steve tells the audience that the soldier boy got back home just in time for the funeral. Now, it was time for the father to make acquaintance with his son. He had to break the whole story to him in a gentle manner.
Steve brings home the story to the audience, and he articulates the facts in a very dramatic way. He tells the audience that Soldier boy’s persistence paid off. He frequented the grave site, and one day he was able to talk with his son. He told him the whole story. Steve tells the audience in song. It was a happy ending. Steve reminds the audience of the importance of the barber shops in the community.
Later, he brings the audience into his world as he reminds it of the famous people he had worked with throughout the years. He has ranges in singing that allows him to change genre from Blues to Afro-Caribbean songs. Steve is a very versatile performer. His is very proud of his career. This is a performance I can see again for Steve knows how to bring the audience into his routine.