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Evolutionary Tales: A Hip-Hop Theatre Cycle

nytheatre.com q&a preview by Baba Brinkman
May 7, 2013

What is your job on this show?
Playwright, Rapper, Actor.

What is your show about?
Evolutionary Tales is the first-ever hip-hop theatre cycle, combining three different plays that each explore the evolutionary view of life as it applies to rap music, romance, and raconteurs.

When did you know you wanted to work in the theater, and why?
I started out as a rap artist, but soon discovered that the audiences at concerts and nightclubs have a strictly limited attention span. I wanted to tell stories and create a Shakespearian experience using the stylistics of hip-hop, especially the rhyme and rhythm properties, and the theatre seemed like a natural space to do that. I premiered my first hip-hop play in 2003, and since then I have been part of more than a dozen productions in various countries.

Complete this sentence: My show is the only one opening in NYC this spring that...?
will change the way you look at the world, revealing the hidden evolutionary patterns that surround you. It's not just theory though, there's also a tangible Darwinian action plan, which is destined to go viral: Don't Sleep With Mean People!

How did you meet your fellow artists/collaborators on this show?
The music director, composer, and live DJ in all three shows that comprise Evolutionary Tales is Jamie Simmonds, a producer from the UK I met in June 2008. I had co-written a hip-hop play with a British rapper called Dizraeli which was set to premiere at the Edinburgh Fringe in six weeks. We had a script but no soundtrack, and a mutual friend introduced us to Jamie. He wrote an incredible soundtrack and produced an album based on the show, completing both in six weeks in time for the Fringe. I was blown away. So when the chance came to bring one of my shows to New York, I got him a job doing the music. The rest is history

Which mythical character would like your show the best: Cyclops, Cupid, Paul Bunyan or the Easter Bunny?
Cupid would hate these shows at first, but would come to respect them, since they're all about the evolutionary dynamics that drive our mate choices. Being struck by Cupid's arrow may feel like a stroke of the gods, but it's actually an adaptation to ensure the passing on of genes. If we can learn to live with that awareness then so can Cupid.

Why are theater festivals so very important?
Festivals give artists a chance to interact with open-minded audiences, who are looking for something different. They encourage experimentation and trial and error, and allow an unknown gem to be discovered when it otherwise would have been overlooked. All three of the shows that make up Evolutionary Tales got their start at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival before coming to New York.