And for their next trick, All Together Now is back at the Lilypad for its fifth show. The series has been bringing together communities of New York and Boston to create a diverse multidisciplinary event that creates space for women, people of color, LGBT+, and minorities. Recently, they’ve received funding from a Live Arts Boston grant provided by the Boston Foundation and will continue to host these magical shows full of passion, talent, and warmth.
Felice Ling kicks off the fifth installment with a mute dialogue with the audience, using nothing but a flip book and her facial expressions. She gestures to an audience member in the front row to name a card from an image of scattered cards in her flip book. When the gentleman announces, “King of Diamonds!” Ling opens her mouth for the first time all night and coughs up a King of Diamonds card.
Ling continues to amaze the crowd with a blindfolded coin trick, and ends with another astonishing card trick, this time while tied to a chair. After two chosen audience members tie up Ling to a chair with blue rope, a participant takes a step back and softly says, “I didn’t think I’d be tying anyone up when I went out tonight.” Meanwhile, another two audience members are handling the cards. While one person deals as fast as possible, the other one says “stop” when they see the card they chose. After dealing the entire deck, the card isn’t found, and a wave of confusion drifts over the Lilypad. Yet somehow–while tied to a chair, mind you– Ling spots the card in the back of the venue, behind an entire audience and a beer and wine booth. The crowd cheers fiercely, and Ling makes a comical show of escaping the ropes as musician Jane Park plays her off with dramatic violin music.
After such an amusing introduction to All Together Now, performers Jenee Halstead and Mark Lipman take the stage and begin to present one of the most impassioned and introspective acts of the All Together Now series. Their act, “Welcome to the Closet,” uses storytelling, song, and spoken word to explore the oppression humans burden themselves with in order to hide their true colors.
“Remember Sardines? The hide ‘n’ seek game?” asks Lipman. “We’re it, you found us.”
Halstead adds, “The only way out of the closet is telling your story.”
After general introductions, the two performers wander a dark stage with small flashlights in hand. They whisper negative comments and questions to themselves, crossing paths occasionally, but continuing their distracted stroll. After a while, they collapse onto each other. The soft background music starts to brighten up, and Halstead and Lipman launch into a harmony of Annie Lennox’s “Walking on Broken Glass.” The stage lights up and Lipman wears a thin scarf around his neck while Halstead fluffs a pink, feather boa. Their melody rings out to every corner of the Lilypad.
“We need a safe space to tell our stories,” says Lipman.
Halstead says, “I think we need guidelines, like a manifesto. What do we need to feel safe enough to tell our stories?” Halstead directs the question at the audience. The two performers unroll a large scroll. They encourage audience members to add their needs to the doctrine whenever they feel comfortable enough to do so with the provided blank stickers and markers.
Lipman starts to share his story. “I want to be provocative,” he says, “I want to make straight men face their discomfort.” He talks of his past, his present, and of the oppression he feels. He describes the fear and shame he’s endured over the years. Halstead stands aside, watching him earnestly as he sings. When it’s her turn to share stories, she holds a leopard print mirror in her hand.
“My confidence is a mask,” Halstead reads from papers on a music stand, pausing to let each sentiment sink in as she speaks. “Inside I am an imposter.” She shares intimate details about her upbringing, touching on notions of sexuality and poverty. When Halstead finishes, Lipman starts the act’s final number, a medley of two original songs, Lipman’s “What We Got” and Halstead’s “Raised by Wolves.” She joins the song and the passion is palpable. The duo end with one verse, repeated over and over, sending chills across the audience: “Nothing can hurt me now.” Their performance comes full circle, ending with hope after an agitated introduction of confusion and perpetual anxiety.
Performer and musician Zayde Buti follows Halstead and Lipman with a unique kind of spoken word combined with political commentary. Alone, with only a microphone in center stage, Buti chants the letter ‘S’ until you can’t tell where the letter starts or begins. He experiments with simple sounds, twisting and contorting them until his enunciation resembles a rubber ball falling down a flight of stairs. Gradually, his ‘S’ evolves into an ‘F’ and he recycles the same odd articulated chanting.
“I call that piece Trump’s report card,” Buti concludes his introduction. With a guitar in hand, he plays short songs, almost poem-like. President Trump represents the focus of many of his songs, with lyrics like, “Only got a dollar/ and I feel like Donald Dump” or “All that shit you’re talking makes your breath stink/ real bad.” Buti creates a unique blend of spoken verse, profanity, and humor, which results in an intriguing–yet random–performance.
“I’m making a lot of people uncomfortable right now,” Buti comments, eliciting a laugh from the audience because he’s probably right. He rarely speaks aside from his spoken verse, which puts much of the focus on his songs and his curious diction. His short performance concludes the same way it began: with another round of wordplay, this time with the word “love.”
The night comes to a close with dreamy band Poor Eliza, fronted by aforementioned musician Jane Park, who also works alongside curator Anna Rae as the Marketing Assistant to the All Together Now series. Park lets the soft sound of her acoustic guitar reign in the distracted crowd. Poor Eliza has a shoegaze-like vibe with strong, emotional undertones. Park’s energy is a pure joy to watch on stage. She concludes the fifth All Together Now show not with a whisper, but with a soft hug.
THE GIST: All Together Now #5 continues to expand outside its comfort zone by adding unique acts to every show. There’s always an element of surprise, comfort, or passion included in each act, which creates a welcoming energy among the community. Catch the next one at The Burren Backroom on August 19.