Photo by Carolezoom.
It's an odd feeling, entering and being politely ushered into the posh Winningstad Theater with Nas' Illmatic
playing low over the speakers. Despite the venue or volume, that seminal record was appropriate chamber music for the performance that followed. Lemon Andersen's monologue and Nas' first album have a lot in common, a young man's story of coming up on the streets of New York, persevering and finding inner strength despite (or because of) hardship.
Andersen began his story of his greatest accomplishment—winning the Tony award as a part of Russell Simmons' Def Poetry Jam on Broadway—which added emotional resonance as he recalled the formative episodes of his youth.
Freely switching from his narrative voice to other, animated characters from his life, Andersen moved his story along in a dizzying whirlwind of speech—at times evoking the late Spalding Gray—spitting rapid-fire until breaking into a rap, as if it was the only way he could get the words out.
By the end of the show the audience shared Andersen's pride in his successes, indicating his strength as an orator and the realism of his story, placing "the Beautiful Struggle" in the company of Jonathan Lethem's Fortress of Solitude
and, of course, Illmatic
as premier pop-culture memoirs.
Read more diaries from the 2008 TBA Festival here.