Sarah Jones turned schizophrenic at Corwin Pavilion last night when she brought to life not one, but 11 different characters in her one-woman show.
The African-America hip hop and spoken word artist, playwright and activist performed her latest one-woman show, “Waking the American Dream,” last night at Campbell Hall. The show, which features the monologues of eleven U.S. immigrants, explores the struggle for acceptance, success and unity that are often major elements of the American immigrant experience.
Her characterizations include a Pakistani host named Mohammed; an Egyptian girl searching for her identity as an American; an Hispanic man, Juan Jose, who rejects the portrayal of his people in the modern media; Mrs. Li, a Chinese woman dealing with her daughter’s lesbian relationship, as well as seven other characters from Haiti, Nigeria, Vietnam, Puerto Rico and Russia.
“It was amazing the way that she would just change her jacket and become a whole different person,” said undeclared freshman Laura Johnston of Jones’ performance. “She completely altered her identity.”
Many of the pieces used comedy to draw attention to serious issues. In one monologue, Jones’ teenaged Vietnamese boy character raps: “This is not about an Oscar for Crouching Taylor Hidden Dry Cleaner … This is an arsenal of anger to wield.”
Other pieces addressed current events as they affect the acceptance of immigrants. “We are American too,” shouted the character Mohammed as his character discussed racism against Middle Eastern Americans after Sept. 11.
After receiving a standing ovation for her performance, Jones held a meet-the-artist discussion in which audience members were invited to ask questions.
Jones explained that she wrote the show to challenge the stereotypes of immigrants that are often presented in the media.
“I wanted to close what I thought was a gap between what I saw every time I turned on the TV and what I knew was really happening,” she said.
Many audience members took the opportunity to compliment Jones on bringing controversial issues to the stage.
Jones, who has won many awards including the 2000 HBO Aspen Comedy Arts Festival’s Best One-Person Show and has been featured on shows such as “Nightline” and “ABC World News,” also spoke about the censorship of her song “Your Revolution (will not happen between these thighs).” The song repeated, parodied and attacked lyrics from popular rap music, lyrics that Jones said were degrading to women.
Due to its content, the FCC banned the song for radio and television for being obscene and offensive.
Last week, after a two-year legal battle and a great deal of public pressure, the FCC lifted the ban on the song and a $7,000 fine against a Portland, Oregon radio station was rescinded.
“This is not an attack on hip hop. This is a mourning of what commercialism has done to narrow the pool of artists that we are able to hear,” Jones said, addressing popular music fans.
She is very concerned that the media is becoming increasingly controlled by a small group of people, most of whom, she feels, allow the negative portrayal of women.
“I challenge you,” she said, “to find any media that is not in some way misogynist.”
Jones, who plans to release a book of her work next spring, will be performing her award winning show, “Surface Transit,” in Berkeley for five weeks from April to May.