May 16, 2007
(c) Jeanne Powell
The Hip-Hop Theater Festival has hit the Bay area again, and one of its highlights is the one-man performance by Jerry Quickley in “Live from the Front” at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco.
Quickley is a poet and performance artist, perhaps best known as a three-time Los Angeles Poetry Grand Slam winner. He is the author of two books, Soul of the Game and Slam. In addition, he has created poetry and hip-hop shows for Carmel Performing Arts Festival, West Hollywood Book Festival and the Mark Taper Forum. He has been covered widely in the print media and on network television (NBC, CNN, HBO).
With press credentials from Pacifica Radio Network, the parent company of public radio station KPFK in Los Angeles, Quickley decided to go to Iraq to find out the real story behind the American invasion. In February 2003 he flew to Jordan and somehow got a visa from the Iraqi embassy. Wearing a laminated photograph of American Muslims Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali around his neck may have helped considerably.
About six feet tall and weighing more than 300 pounds, Quickley is noticeable wherever he goes. His curiosity and charisma got him interviews and experiences during 19 days in Iraq which were not available to most Americans, and which he put to effective use in his one-man presentation at YBCA.
Alternately standing, walking and sitting under a spotlight on a small stage with a desk, chair and two bottles of water, Quickley expressed a multiplicity of emotions as he described his experiences with the military, the media, civilians and the ever-present Iraqi “guides” assigned to keep an eye on this most unusual of American journalists.
Quickley’s presentation, at times explosive and other times poignant in “Live from the Front,” was underscored by poetry, music and video images on a large screen. He regaled his audience with stories from his youth in New York and his adult life before Iraq, including one about Nike and a slave ship poem he wrote, which resulted in Nike suing him.
One Iraqi citizen said to him, “Saddam is our problem. America will never be welcome here.” If only someone had listened to this warning! One journalist described Quickley as a storyteller who gives voice to the lives of Iraqi people. The audience at YBCA was mesmerized.
“Live from the Front” originated in an abbreviated form in May 2003 at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles. Jerry Quickley has since performed it at the Public Theatre in New York, at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago.
The 2007 Hip-Hop Theater Festival runs at several venues in San Francisco and Berkeley from May 8th to May 20th. For general festival information, visit www.hiphoptheaterfest.org.
Causes Jeanne Powell Supports
Union of Concerned Scientists, VVAW (Vietnam Veterans Against War), Doctors Without Borders, Waterkeeper Alliance, PSR (Physicians for Social Responsibility...