Nikki Giovanni: New Song for a New Day | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Nikki Giovanni: New Song for a New Day 

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Nikki Giovanni: new song for a new day, Steppenwolf Theatre Company, at South Shore Cultural Center. "Show me someone not full of herself," Nikki Giovanni once declared, "and I'll show you an empty person!" In the late 60s and early 70s she defiantly reveled in first-person singularity, arguing by her example that pride in one's people must begin with pride in oneself.

Yet Leslie Holland's Nikki Giovanni: New Song for a New Day opens in the present with a weary and pessimistic Giovanni questioning her accomplishments and fearing that bitterness will be with her always ("I have lived too long with sick people to think I have escaped their malady"). Answers and comfort come in the form of three ghostly spirits who review in music, dance, and Giovanni's own words the artist's progress from militancy to gender-cultural introspection to hope ("We must believe in each other's dreams. ...Come, let's dream of freedom together").

Under Holland's direction, a quartet of multitalented female performers creates a seamless collage of aural, verbal, and kinetic imagery; the original score ranges from delicate Satie-like melodies to syncopated rap rhythms. Though more celebration than biography, this Steppenwolf-South Shore Cultural Center production makes a brief--45 minutes max--but welcome introduction to the poet.

--Mary Shen Barnidge


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