The Vineyard Theater has launched its Fall Forward Festival with the first two of the five planned “new works of alternative theater,” according to its website, works that promise to be “a mix of live-in person, live virtual, filmed, and audio performances, some fully realized and some in process.”
I’m not sure that either Kirsten Childs’ new audio musical, “Aunt Lillian” nor Ngozi Anyanwu’s monologue “Maybe Dorothy Was Right” are meant to be fully realized, nor even that they fit the description of alternative. But they were a half hour online that brightened my day.
“Picture Mary Poppins…cool and magical and mysterious,” Amber Iman as the adult Kirsten Childs says in “Aunt Lillian,” Childs’ 20-minute musical. Then her voice turns harsh: “Now get all of those pretty pictures right out of your head, because my Aunt Lillian was no damn Mary Poppins.” She launches into a catchy rock song about how Aunt Lillian came from North Carolina to California to help raise Kirsten and her two siblings
“….bringing us doom
Like a witch on a broom”
It’s a funny and promising start, but the next song makes a jarring swerve that feels imported from a different show, about the infatuation that Young KC (Ashley D. Kelly) had with the actor Terence Stamp in his role in the movie “Billy Bud.” (complete with an actor, Kevin Massey, portraying Billy Bud.) Through dialogue and song and a seven-member cast, Childs sets up the “not so civil war” between the “Carolina biddy” and the “California kiddy,” portraying both the disciplinarian who called her new charges “the culprits,” and the childish Childs who rebels and resents. Is the premise enough for a full musical? I’m not sure, but I would love a fuller one.
“Maybe Dorothy Was Right”
Ngozi Anyanwu stars in a seven-minute film about her early experiences as a new New Yorker and aspiring actress and writer, and how she explores, sours and then resweetens on her adopted city. Her language is poetic but always grounded. The images in the film are of her reciting, but also scenes from the city (not necessarily connected to what she’s saying.)
It’s easy for someone who was once new to New York to appreciate such lines as: “You take the A train to an unknown place, and you go uptown instead of downtown, you learn the difference between express and local, cause you got to get lost a couple of times to find yourself,” and hard for New Yorker like myself resist her discoveries: ” a free concert, or the line that wraps around the sneaker store, or the drum line of young kids at the African-America Day Parade or Spike Lee’s annual birthday party for Prince, or Dance Africa at BAM, or the Met or MOMA or Broadway. Or that drum circle in Prospect Park.”