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Friday, September 14, 2018

Rochester Fringe Festival Day 2: Words and music from 150 years ago | Jeff Spevak - WXXI News

"Two days into the KeyBank Rochester Fringe Festival, and already we have a bold statement on these times. Words, and music, coming back to us from 150 years ago" inform Jeff Spevak, cultural arts contributor to WXXI and Rochester-based writer, is reporting on the Fringe Festival daily at His web site is

Tymisha Harris as Josephine Baker
Photo: Jeff Spevak / for WXXI News

It’s a tough call to say what was more impressive Thursday night at the Lyric Theatre and First Inversion’s Holding on Through Song: A Celebration of the African-American Spiritual. The music? 
Or the message? An evening of spirituals, backed by a chorus, but otherwise allowed to stand naked, save for brushes of piano, violin and the words of Frederick Douglass, born a slave, and his fellow slaves...

Josephine Baker: ‘La Vie En Rose’
Tymisha Harris captures all that makes Josephine Baker one of the most-intriguing personalities of the 20th century in Josephine: A Burlesque Cabaret Dream Play, her marvelous, one-woman musical at the School of the Arts’ Allen Main Stage.

Born in 1906 in the United States, Baker escaped poverty, anonymity and “cleaning white peoples’ clothes” only upon moving to Paris, where she became a star. “I loved the country as much that spurned me as the country that embraced me,” Harris’ Baker says early on, and nationality was only one aspect of her conflicted life. “Love has never really lasted for me,” Baker says, as she spins through marriages and lovers, both men and women. Picasso and e.e. cummings among them, she claims. “I started wondering if love and happiness are two separate things.”

She was stylish. Her dancing, costumes and behavior were considered scandalous, although apparently the French could handle it. Harris runs through a dozen costume changes, including one in the midst of the audience, where she finds a guy to help her put on her furry bra, pointing out as he fumbles about that, “You must take them off more than you put them on.” Harris even reproduces Baker’s most-notorious costume, a banananatomically correct skirt, with the fruit later serving as risqué sight gag when she compares lovers. 
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Source: WXXI News