Monday, August 7, 2023

Minnesota Fringe Festival 2023: "Climbing my family tree"


Show: 14


By: Kurkendaal Barrett Presentations

Created by: Les Kurkendaal-Barrett

Location: Rarig Thrust

Title: Climbing My Family Tree

Summary: A storytelling show about a Black man's search for his family, and the surprising things he found.

Highlights: I first saw this show as part of the virtual 2020 Minnesota Fringe Festival, and have seen him perform live since, so I was eager to revisit this piece live (what follows is borrowed from my review of the virtual show). This is a fascinating story, and Les tells it well with a building of suspense. I'm kind of obsessed with those genealogical shows (e.g., Finding Your Roots and Who Do You Think You Are), and that's really what this is. After taking an Ancestry DNA test, Les meets his long-lost grandfather, as well as some distant cousins, and discovers he's descended from some pretty amazing and surprising people, of both African and European descent. He learns about an aunt that was a founder of the Black Panthers in New Orleans, his many generations removed French Duke ancestor, and mixed race couples in a time it was illegal and dangerous. He's accepted with open arms by all of the cousins he meets, and feels a real kinship with them. This story of genealogical discovery is interspersed with his grandfather's story that he tells Les the one and only time they met, about how he once killed a man ("he just wrote my next show for me!"). But the best part of Les's story is that in the end, what he discovers is that "racism is dumb, because we're all related anyway." Amen.