Big Show this Saturday…and Why I Love Real Artists

This past week I had the pleasure to witness some amazing shows that cross the fake boundaries of performance, culture, and politics. 2 cities, 4 shows, 8 days…and i didn’t even pay a dime! Quick, non-linear recap:

– “In the Heights” (NYC): When I heard there was a hip-hop, merengue musical on Broadway, I was skeptical. I was wrong. This was the most fun, most grounded-in-people-and-places-that-look-and-talk-like-my-friends-and-me show I’d ever seen. And they could actually rhyme. And sing! Check the video.

– “Stateless: A Hip-Hop Vaudeville” (SF): From the folks who did the theater version of Angry Black White Boy…but here Dan Wolf and Tommy Shepherd were on stage just having FUN. And so we did in the audience too. Dan’s true-life story in the play is crazy, but the best part is the vaudeville. It’s like Charlie Chaplin meets Rahzell, but surprisingly well done.

– “Left Coast Leaning” (SF, 2 nights): My co-conspirators in artistic crime, the Living Word Project, put on this weekend festival. I caught two nights. Not everything hit, but the ones that did hit HARD. Rennie Harris’ dance explosion was fresh, but it was really my folks that impressed the fuck out of me: Lauren Whitehead singing and bringing the water, Denizen Kane w/ Sean San Jose flipping a solo show into joint brilliance…and the one and only Chinaka Hodge saying exactly what needed to be said about Oscar Grant and Barack Obama. With powerful, painful help from the trumpet and the keys.

It’s fun when you’re some of your biggest heroes are your friends.

It’s amazing to see art that provokes, that moves, that challenges in ways that we need.

And it’s exciting for me to try to do the same. And scary.

Back in college, if you asked me “what do you do, Josh?” I would have said I’m an organizer. Maybe an educator. A part-time poet, yes, but I wouldn’t have claimed the title of artist. I brought artists to campus, I organized shows and teach-ins and protests, but I didn’t have the experience or the confidence to put energy into my own art.

Several years and many of my own performances later, I am an artist on the verge of my next artistic evolution. To me, spoken word is a great starting place. An engaging, exciting, democratic art form that is very welcoming and supportive. It can also be a launching pad into new forms. You’ve got folks who go into music, who go into theater, who go into fiction and write next-level novels. And you’ve got folks doing all three — or creating new hybrid genres.

I am a writer.

I don’t know exactly where I’m going as an artist (which is the point…I tell my students “if they know how the story’s gonna end, they’re not gonna even read the beginning”), but I do see a couple paths in front of me. One is just straight writing, but in new forms: short stories, essays, political commentary, one-act plays, etc. (Hint: the next book is gonna be more than just poems.) The other is trying new performance styles: stand-up comedy, mash-up storytelling, working with musicians like I used to with the Big Mouth Band back in Madison. Maybe (god forbid) even some theater.

With all that said…I’ve got a big show this Saturday! And I’ll be premiering some new, crazy pieces. Yes, I know it’s at a museum but come through and I promise you we’ll get the place jumping like Kris Kross…


Super 8 Hanukkah Festival
Saturday, December 12, 2009, 7:00 PM
$10 presale/ $15 at the door. Must be 21 to attend.

The Hub of the JCCSF and the CJM team up this year to get your holiday on at the third annual Super 8 Hanukkah Festival, now with eight ways to burn bright:

* MAKE PROGRESS: 5th Annual Progressive Jewish Alliance Festival of Rights
* WATCH IT @ 8by8: Eight short films curated by the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival including Sundance selection, Ten for Grandpa
* GET SLAMMED: Poetry by Josh Healey, two-time National Poetry Slam artist
* EXHIBIT YOURSELF: There’s a Mystery There: Sendak on Sendak, As It Is Written: Project 304,805, and Jews on Vinyl in the CJM galleries
* BE PREPARED: With Hanukkah Survival Kits
* GET DOWN WITH THE GIRLS: Live music performances by Girls In Trouble and Charming Hostess
* UNLEASH YOUR CREATIVITY: A sober space to get creative and make art
* BREAK THAT FUNK: Cash bar and dancing to the funky sounds of DJ Teeko

Get your tickets here!

They’re saying i’ll go on around 7:30…so don’t be too late, friends. This ain’t a Wu-Tang show. Remember, it’s more like…