Performance artist Paige Hernandez finally gets a chance to take center stage and tell her own story, and man, does she Rock! Often seen around town as a supporting artist who brings excitement and energy to other people’s work, Hernandez, supported by sibling “Nick tha1da” as attentive Dj , brings touching insights and a refreshing exuberance to her coming of age story, whose title riffs from “paid in full.”
The multi-layered story sparkles with contemporary urban flair, tantalizing terms and expressions, and move ‘yo body rhythms in this beat-filled portrait of an artist as a young girl. Totally at ease and in command of her material, Hernandez shows how hip-hop and dance shaped her earliest memories and became the bedrock of her existence. In one sequence, through a beautiful blend of movement and theatrical expression, she shows the early courtship of her young parents, their reactions to first love, the unexpected pregnancy, and her birth in a never ending flow. It’s stunning.
Inspired by how the early rappers manipulated words and expressions, she too honed her skills and was soon bee-bopping her way through the tough streets of Baltimore- her words became her life-line to a fully expressed life. With Nick at the helm scratching out patches of the familiar sit-com tunes, she recalls the early television shows that captivated and influenced her, with special attention to “In Living Color” naming each of the “Fly Girls” along with an accompanying signature movement, a vivid reminder of where Jennifer Lopez and Rosie Perez got their starts, and adds herself to the entourage in a burst of applause and imagination, another top notch nugget.
In another innovative segment, she depicts “B’More’s” neighborhoods in “haiku”, reflecting diverse sights and sounds in just a few well placed words, inflections, even mimicry. She just nails it. In a startlingly fresh approach, she recalls the infamous accounts of Charm City some of which aren’t so charming, as well as the rich and/or famous celebrities who hail from there, transitioning seamlessly through her life stages. In a rather harrowing passage, she shows how a sweet and innocent young thing can be enticed by the allure of the forbidden gangster bad and get pulled into a gravitational vortex of petty crime and abuse, yet mercifully just miss being another torn from the headlines statistic.
In the second half of the hour, Hernandez provides insight into her own fascinating roots recalling her mixed racial heritage as African American, Cuban and Chinese, Languages flow as easily as stylized movements as she wonders – Am I Black Enough, Cuban Enough, Asian enough. She ends with an homage to her family legacy with angular grief stricken movements at her grandmother’s death. Throughout, Hernandez is mesmerizing and leaves you wanting more.
Jamie Yellen’s simple backdrop of a set with a pair of Keds dangling along a chainlink fence and blocks to form a passageway functions nicely to shape the moods as does lighting by Zoia Wiseman.
Founder and producing Artistic Director of the Hegira, Danielle A. Drakes, who directed the show, has provided the perfect incubator space to shape a composite of performance pieces into a compelling ready for prime time production. Here’s hoping for more of this “B-Girl’s” story along with others from this young company, theHegira, dedicated to showcasing artistry from women of color.
Paige in Full
Written and Performed by Paige Hernandez
Directed by Danielle A. Drakes
Accompanied by Nick tha1da
Produced by theHegira
Reviewed by Debbie Minter Jackson