Monday, October 08, 2007
Before I Disappear
We spent a wonderful extended weekend in Three Oaks, Michigan and saw Alexandra Billings' powerful play described as an autobiography in story and song.
This is truly God's country. Only one hour from Chicago, right across the lake, just over the Indiana border, is a picturesque rural community complete with horses and cornfields. Here in small town mid-America, Alexandra's play Before I Disappear was presented in the Acorn Theater, a 200 seat restoration that used to be the historic Featherbone Factory (corsets). The Acorn also houses an art gallery and a gorgeous 1925 Barton organ.
Before I Disappear has been called Alexandra's tour de force for it's writing and performance. It's been described as a journey from boyhood to womanhood, a hilarious, and sometimes harrowing, roller coaster journey through her complex life.
Alex plays all the roles with only a chair and a tin lunchbox as props. Yet, the stage was full with vivid dramatizations and the people in her life.
The play flows through the history of her personal toll of being Transgender and the choices sometimes forced by society's disrespect and lack of options. By the end of Act II, it comes many times full circle, like little Scott Billings fighting the slimy green dragon with his sword. He grows into a swashbuckling Alex fighting AIDS, cutting off each new dragon head complete with her own sound effects. It's amazingly vivid and triumphant.
Before I Disappear is heavy but also so very funny. It's as light as it is dark, about ignorance and about learning, about weakness and strength, walking lifes tight rope and juggling, about hate and death and about survival, but more about living life out loud and love.
This play does what theater should do. Allow the audience experiences other than their own. And, as brilliant director Mary Beidler Gearen says was her goal, hopefully to build bridges.
After the play, chatting and chilling out on a beautiful night, Alex and Monica discovered they could actually see twinkling stars that seemed so close and not washed out by Chicago city lights or obscured by L A smog.