OUTsider Fest Review: Nia & Ness' Home.

Splitting the world open, one performance at a time

If one woman told the truth about her life, poet Muriel Rukeyser wrote, the world would split open. Nia and Ness are definitely in the business of splitting the world open, one performance, one audience at a time.

Nia & Ness (Photo provided by OUTsider Festival)

In the world premiere of their show home., the duo dissect their lives as a black lesbian couple traversing through a world that actively asks, as they recounted in one scene, “What’s worse? Being black or being a lesbian?”

On one hand, they callout white liberal culture, so often engrossed in the idea that black issues snapped into existence at Trump’s inauguration and will, just as easily, fade away when he leaves the oval office. On the other, black and brown men who often spew hate at them – a rage that erupts from a fear of not being needed by these two black women existing.

While Ness’ spoken word, grounded in a voice that swells with power, narrates the majority of the show with unapologetic and knowingly brave statements, Nia’s dance pulls the invisible strings that visual work so often does, invoking a wordless language to create such strong feelings of anguish, agitation, and finally at the end, a hard-fought-for joy.

The order by which they tell the story of their lives is a powerful act of reclaiming. Together, they move from a place of how the world treats them as a threat to be exterminated into the world that they hope to inhabit one day. A world in which they grow old together, raise children who know their stories, go to whiskey and wine tastings while living in Kingston, New York.

It’s a statement within itself to not only present black joy, an experience often left out as a possibility for the black experience, but to ground it as a future to strive for. This conclusion is made all the more powerful by the way they dive into the histories their bodies carry, an ancestral one of slavery, abuse, and personal traumas in their individual lives. Demonstrating the history embedded in their skin makes the fruitful black joy they simultaneously achieve – and continue to strive for – that much more long-time-coming home.

OUTsider Festival runs Wed., Feb. 20 through Sun., Feb. 24, (mostly) at the Vortex, 2307 Manor Rd. Badges are available online. Individual tickets are issued 10 minutes before each show after badge holders have been seated. For more on the fest, see our Chron Events listing.

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OUTsider Festival, OUTsider Fest 2019

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