Michael Wayne Turner III Shows a Little Madness Is a Good Thing
by Kim Waldron
First, we see a dandy, one with a vast and classy wardrobe, his face expressive with a ready smile and eloquent eyes. We soon find that under the cocked hat is an ever-so-slightly unhinged poet and philosopher. This Mad Hatter is working to make sense of the complex identify of a Black man in America.
Fashion, song, monologues, and movement are Michael Wayne Turner III’s tools for the journey, augmented by a classical string musical background. An award-winning poet, Turner’s songs and some monologues are performed in rhyme. It’s not hip hop, though it leans into that rhythmic performance style now and then and is always wonderful. I hung on every word.
The setting is a joy, with big gold chair in the middle, racks of suits throughout, fashion and history books scattered everywhere, and of course, as a befits a Mad Hatter, a tea table with pot and cups. As a woman I’ve always pitied men’s suits, the drab navies, grays, browns.
Here they are in such wondrous array, and with every sort of stripe and check and paisley, that I left wanting to run out and buy a vested suit for every day of the week. This dandy’s suits are a kind of armor against societal expectations, but they’re also gorgeous.
It was Sinatra who said, “Cock your hat, angles are attitudes.” I think Sinatra, no slouch at either hard work or style himself, would agree that Michael Wayne Turner III is one of the hardest working performers around with an impressive array of all-around artistic skills.
If a cocked hat is all about attitudes and angles, this Mad Hatter has plenty of both. The ideas, like the identity it presents, are complex, I left with plenty to think about—and feel good about.
“Hat Matter: Thoughts of a Black Mad Hatter” by Michael Wayne Turner III, at Z Space, 450 Florida St, San Francisco. Info: Z-Space.org – to August 21, 2022.
Cast: Michael Wayne Turner III