Photo by Carolezoom.
Lemon Andersen, Winningstad Theater, Mon., Sept 8, 8:30 pm
There has been a glitch in the scheduling. Tiago Guedes, a talented Argentine performer, conceptual artist, and spontaneous maker of small gestures and iterative things, has been misplaced. His first performance, according to the program, was meant to be at PNCA but wasn't. His second performance was meant to be at Winningstad but wasn't. Due to scheduling conflicts, we learn, we have arrived at Winningstad to the wrong performance. We learn this only when Lemon Anderson
, best known from Russell Simmons's Def Poetry Jam, bursts into archaic flow and histrionic gesture before he has even reached the stage. He wanted to surprise us, and he did. We thought he would be Argentinian.
Andersen, in rhythms alternating among old-school hip hop, hyperemphatic poetry slam, and 1950s sitcom gee-whiz-I'm-young, wants to tell us about growing up Nuyorican in Park Slope projects to a heroin mom (who gets AIDS) and a car-thief stepdad (who gets AIDS), amid eccentric oldsters with one eye and funny voices, transvestites with funny voices, and ballet teachers with dignified restraint. He tells us about dealing crack, going to prison, and having cellmates with funny (read: British) voices before embarking on artistic self-discovery and becoming the impassioned overactor we now see in front of us.
Well, it sounds like a hard life, one more extreme than most of us will ever live or especially come to redeem. Despite the familiarity of its narrative arc it is one that likely merits public remembering. Viewers of Rushmore will remember Jacques Cousteau's adage that "when one man, for whatever reason, has the opportunity to lead an extraordinary life, he has no right to keep it to himself."
But memoir can be factually true and still be dishonest. If Andersen had not lived this life but told the story in the same way—frantically eager to please, in shared MTV shorthand, coming on in nests of shotgunned, overplayed stereotypes and exaggerated mimicry nearly racist in its caricaturing—he would have been James-Freyed right out of town. And really, the true test of memoir as an art and not as a self-congratulatory ejaculation is whether it could possibly hold up, still be true, as a work of fiction--whether the story that Andersen tells could possibly still matter if he weren't in the room telling us that yes, yes, it was me, I was there.
But no; Andersen's art was much more about reassuring its white, suburban audience. He has made a sitcom of his own life—sold the whole thing out—just to prove to the relatively privileged arts audience in the Winningstad Theater at the Portland Center for the Performing Arts that we, too, can hang
Read more diaries from the 2008 TBA Festival here.