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      Culture Bandit
    Oys in the hood

    The "Hebrew mamita" Vanessa Hidary explores her confluence of Jewish and Latino heritages in a poetic and perceptive one-woman show, "Culture Bandit."


    (Originally reviewed at the Nuyorican Poets Caf in May 2003.)

    Vanessa Hidary's one-woman show "Culture Bandit" at the Nuyorican Poets Caf is a triumph of the form. Infused with a poetic sensibility, a cohesive structure and intelligent political commentary, the text improves with every moment culminating in a masterful poetic crescendo at the show's end. The autobiographical piece is divided into four sections: her preteen life as a Sephardic Jewish girl on the Upper West Side whose best friend is Puerto Rican, her days at La Guardia Performing Arts High School in the '80s, her cultural studies and later theater programs in college, and her emergence (and the reality of life) as a full-on poet.

    Written and performed by: Vanessa Hidary.
    Directed by: Mariana Hellmund.

    Related links: Official site
    125 W. 42nd St.
    July 24 - Aug. 2, 2003

    Hidary is a well known and much appreciated artist who has appeared on Russell Simmons's Def Poetry Jam and was recently a finalist in the Grand Slam at the Nuyorican. The show's title refers to her appreciation for other cultures including her own as well as her self acknowledged appropriation of elements from other cultures into her own work and life. She investigates the divisive and exclusionary nature of people and peoples devoted to their own backgrounds and suspicious of "race invaders" those who like to travel through and taste them all. Known as the "Hebrew mamita," Hidary opens the play with riffs in Hebrew, Spanish, Spanglish and English.

    Hidary is a consummate performer — her well-written characterizations pop even further in her varied portrayals of a myriad of characters including: the white girl Mary with the flat butt who thinks she's Latino, Khalib the black activist with tunnel vision, her Jewish mother, Diamond D, the heartthrob with the flattop, her best friend's Puerto-Rican family. Hidary seamlessly and gently shifts from character to character without stopping the narrative flow of her work or bringing excessive attention to her theatrical dexterity. She's finished one character and moved on to another before you realize a new voice has entered the text. What shines throughout the work is not only Hidary's compassion, but her intelligence — her complex portrayals of people that less astute writer-performers would have rendered as stereotypes.

    This show makes full of use of Hidary's talents as a performer, storyteller, poet and rabble rouser. A personal journey with a Nuyorican sensibility, Hidary dares to step where few artists can successfully tread, deconstructing the state of Jewish-black relations without seeming to take sides. Wondering how two cultures that were once so closely allied can now be at such odds. She mocks her own hippie "we can all get along" ideals, but it is clear that remains her hope. She does shy away, however, from really touching upon the growth of Islam among American blacks and its role in promoting anti-Semitism in American culture. Hidary's one-hour show, well directed by Mariana Hellmund and produced by Goddess and Revel Productions, is pure theatrical joy from beginning to end and everyone interested in poetry, theater or life should high-tail it to the Nuyorican and see it.

    MAY 16, 2003

    Reader comments on Culture Bandit:

  • Culture Bandit   from Leticia Mangual, Sep 15, 2010

  • Post a comment on "Culture Bandit"