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Beate Hein Bennett

“I Know It Was the Blood”
The Totally True Adventures of a Newfangled Black Woman

Tara Lake in "I Know It Was The Blood: The Totally True Adventures of a Newfangled Black Woman."

August 25 to September 1
Theater for the New City (Cabaret Space), 155 First Avenue (at E. 10th Street)
Presented as part of the Theater for the New City 2019 Dream Up Festival
Performance times vary, Friday, Aug. 30 @6:30 pm, Sunday, Sept. 1 @ 5 pm (no perf. Saturday)
General Admission $15; Box Office 212-254 1109, www.theaterforthenewcity.net
Reviewed by Beate Hein Bennett August 27, 2019

Actress, singer, story teller Tara Lake takes the audience on a trip through her own coming of age, beginning with an untroubled orderly middle-class childhood in New Jersey through the trials and tribulations of parental divorce and her ultimate triumph of gaining selfhood and identity rooted in the rich ancestral fabric of African-American womanhood. Her performance is a tour de force of song, poetry, and story that traverses generations, family celebrations, traditions of faith and church; it encompasses descents into danger and social ostracism as well as the discovery of a “newfangled testament” of the power of black womanhood. There is no doubt Ms. Lake’s encomium about the richly tuneful legacy of black women through generations is imbued with gratitude, love, and generous humor; as she embodies with humor and pathos her 109 year old great-grandmother, a.k.a.“mama,” and mama’s daughter of 90 “aunt babe”, with the ancestral songs of pain and defiance—the fragments of spirituals and the blues pour forth from Ms. Lake underscoring her visceral connection to the authentic music, the very life blood of the women in her background. As if to illustrate the dark hidden source of strength in the music, we first hear only a voice intoning a vague melody in the fully darkened theater space.

While Ms. Lake is to be commended for her enormous performance energy and genuine enthusiasm with which she covers the various characters in her life and her own trajectory, her performance would benefit from the collaboration of a director who could help in shaping and structuring the text through action and giving variety and rhythm to the tone. Ms. Lake’s vocal and physical stage presence overwhelms the text with an unrelenting frontal tonality in the course of an hour and a half. The lyricism and the differentiation of mood and situation within the script get lost in vocal volume and unmotivated back and forth walking about. However, her story is poignant in its reflection on the deeper layers of a black woman’s “newfangled” identity.

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