Jason Bayani Brings Poetry Slam Vibe to Migrant Tales
by Irene Nelson
Jason Bayani’s passionate one man show alternates between poetry, storytelling, and film to tell us his personal story, an episode in the last wave of Filipino migrants to the U.S. He pieces together the struggle to establish identity, and reveals how the Filipino uprooting has changed the generations.
Bayani insists this story be on his terms, straying far from the sanitized history books. An internationally known poet, he gives a riveting performance. He has been on seven National Poetry Slam teams, is a National Poetry Slam Finalist, and was the International World Poetry Slam representative for Oakland in 2010.
Bayani stands before us at a DJ computer set up. Behind him, a large screen flashes pictures that bring his stories and poems to life. We learn right away that Bayani loves hip hop, and he plays music, throughout. At times, music cues him to launch a story; other times, his music supplies setting. Bayani lights up when he remembers chilling in his cousin’s garage, as a kid, while a DJ crew practices. More soberly, he explains how the Filipino immigrants’ love of African American music led them learn about the ‘real’ U.S.
He moves us with stories about being the first in his immigrant family to be born in the U.S., portraying his family, school, and childhood. He gives us a powerful take on racism and lost love. And he includes a brief and bitter history of war and colonialism in the Philippines.
The performance includes a clever four minute video of one of his poems, filmed in Austin with Illyana Bocanegra and Breanna Granzow. They followed Bayani before he returned home to the Bay Area.
Bindlestiff is in one of the few blocks off Market not yet technified. Come to think of it, some of the homeless people on Sixth Street are no doubt victims of tech displacement. The Studio has a fine theater, easy street parking at night, BART and buses—worth your while to hear a fine spoken word performer at the Top of His Game.
“Locus of Control” by Jason Bayani, directed by Kat Evasco, at Bindlestiff Studio, Asian Pacific Island Cultural Center, 185 Sixth Street, San Francisco., through Saturday June 3, 2017. Info: jasonbayani.com
Cast: Jason Bayani