FREE CAKE!! And now that I’ve grabbed your attention – Burn Out Blessings has a lot less to do with teaching and a LOT more to do with sex than I expected from its brief Capital Fringe blurb.
As you walk into the meeting room in St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church, you’re greeted with a Happy Birthday sign on the wall, party favors, and a cake sitting on a table. I assumed that it was supposed to represent the celebration of a student’s birthday, but I soon learned that it stood for so much more.
Al Baker, the creative mind behind and star of Burn Out Blessings, has structured the solo performance in the style of a stand-up routine, microphone and all. It’s a story than many of us have probably heard from our teacher friends, or that you might have experienced if you’re a teacher yourself. Baker decided to become a teacher out of a fulfilling desire to reach the impressionable souls of children, only to find that teaching was far more pre-scripted than expected, with far less use for a degree.
As Al Baker becomes disenchanted with the chosen profession and goes through a bit of a divorce process with teaching, Al Baker enters a ‘ho phase,’ and it’s this ho phase on which the show centers much more than anything to do with actual teaching.
Relationships with “long weekend lovers” come and go, and Al Baker recounts them all, ending with a shocking and heartfelt self-discovery period that I won’t ruin for you here. All I’ll say is that Al Baker gets a standing ovation just for the courageous choice to stand up (see what I did there?) and tell the story.
Burn Out Blessings
closes July 28, 2018
Details and tickets
It is a story of healing, forgiveness, and potential parenthood – a theme that teachers without their own children face head-on each and every day.
Al Baker delivered the show with aplomb to the five of us sitting in their audience on Wednesday night, though it’s clear that it’s a show that’s meant for a larger, more raucous audience. It starts strong and very funny. Stumbling once or twice while recounting the tale, Al Baker started to lose some of the quick pacing that gave the beginning its edge. I’m inclined to chalk that up to opening night jitters though, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this show gets better and better with each performance.
Be forewarned – there is audience interaction! Al Baker threw some questions our way that I was surprised I found difficult to answer. But it all passes quickly, not dwelling long enough to make any one uncomfortable, and Al Baker responded well on the fly to the reactions the audience. A bit of well-placed music enhances the tale. And even as things get serious, moments of levity keep the audience from being dragged down.
Ultimately, isn’t this what theatre is all about – sharing a truth so that we can experience empathy with a story that isn’t their own?
It may not be the most polished performance, but Al Baker had just the right mix of empathy, and, in the end, reassurance. Al Baker made a bold choice with Burn Out Blessings, and I encourage you to hear the story.