Queer theater comes to Roxbury in an updated revival.
In 1991, a San Francisco-based theater group called the Pomo Afro Homos first performed Fierce Love: Stories from Black Gay Life. In creating the piece, the group sought to shed light on an overlooked segment of the community through all kinds of storytelling -- spoken word and music; humor and drama. After 20 years, the show and Pomo Afro Homos cofounder Brian Freeman will return to Boston to present the piece in Freeman’s native Roxbury.
Fierce Love marks the second installment of the Theater Offensive’s OUT in Your Neighborhood series, which aims to bring the group’s mission statement -- "...to form and present the diverse realities of queer lives in art so bold it breaks through personal isolation and political orthodoxy to help build an honest, progressive community" -- to the young people of the various communities in the Boston area.
In March, the Out in Your Neighborhood debut took place in the South End, featuring performances from groups within the community. Now, Freeman’s acclaimed work will present a different side of the experience of being an LGBT youth in an urban environment.
"As a part of the play, I do a story...kind of a coming-of-age story about growing up both black and gay in Boston, in Roxbury," Freeman said. "It’s about the nature of black identity as well as gay identity and neighborhood, as well as how all three have evolved."
Fierce Love consists of 13 vignettes and embraces a variety of art forms to tell the stories. Born of the era in which the LGBT community dealt with the AIDS epidemic in addition to prejudice, the piece is an eclectic, unique collection of stories that define the times while keeping a sense of passion and humor alive. 20 years ago, the stories were true of the performers in the show. Now, a new generation has stepped in to speak those words, which Freeman says has been "inspiring."
"Originally, the stories were a mix of personal stories: scenes, parodies, one is mostly a dance number," he said. "It’s very text based, very humor based. Some of the stories are serious. Some are sad. Some are about love. There’s loss; there’s life. They’re stories from gay life."
Freeman is the only original Pomo Afro Homos member involved with the show, which he has directed and will appear in. He calls the revival a "remix" of the original show. While the original content has been preserved, many of the cultural allusions have been updated and the music has been tweaked.
In accordance with the Theater Offensive’s mission, the updated text is intended to reach the young people in the audience. Freeman feels Fierce Love’s message is as relevant today as it was when it premiered, even though many communities have become more welcoming toward individuals who are openly gay.
"Twenty years ago, the black gay male community was a pretty invisible community. Now it’s pretty visible, but the stories are still really compelling," he said. "As the next generation, the performers...are not putting up their lives, but their lives come from this history, and they are very much informed by that."
The Theater Offensive was responsible for Fierce Love’s original opening in Boston at the Boston Center for the Arts, and Freeman calls the work a "seminal part" of the creation of the organization. Artistic director for the Theater Offensive Abe Rybeck, who has been with the organization since its founding, calls Fierce Love a "revelation in the queer community" which inspired other local artists to create "damn good shows."
The National Performance Network, of which the Theater Offensive is a part, supported the Theater Offensive in commissioning the revival of Fierce Love, and the process featured collaborators from all over the country. The show will play four performances at Hibernian Hall (184 Dudley St.) in Roxbury, Ma. The show dates and times are: Thursday, Nov. 17 at 8 p.m.; Friday, Nov. 18 at 8 p.m.; Saturday, Nov. 19 at 2 p.m. and Saturday, Nov. 19 at 7 p.m.
Shout it OUT!, a collaboration between the Hispanic Gay Coalition and The Theater Offensive, will open Fierce Love’s Saturday matinee. Shout it OUT! will be a staged reading of original coming out stories from LGBT people of color.
Fore more information, please visit www.thetheateroffensive.org.