Last Saturday Art House Astoria hosted Flying Carpet Theatre’s annual Queens Reading Series. The cast of 13 shared five separate works in development over the course of the evening to an appreciative crowd of over 75 people. The evening was filled with moments that ranged from the deeply personal to the lightly comic, with a helping of social criticism.
There was music, dancing, laughter, and the beginnings of a deeper conversation. The evening began with two separate personal narratives. The first, Kyra Miller: Bless This Telephone, featured cabaret artist Kyra Miller telling of her search for true love in a sea of disillusionment. This was followed by tap dancer Andrew Nemr with a dance-narrative about finding inner strength in the face of bullies, doubt, and intimidation.
The third piece, Jumpin’ Jim Crow and the Cosmic Trial of Daddy Rice, introduced us to a pair of urbanites who entertained themselves with course joking and rapping from 1980s hip-hop hits. The two seemed to be moving toward the formation of a formal group when an argument about the ubiquitous “N-word” broke up the festivities. A tap-dancing minstrel “Jim Crow” appeared on the scene and mysteriously forced his tap routine on a befuddled would-be rapper, only to leave him with a cassette of gangsta rap tunes. The ramifications of this, we were left to speculate. Next up—a lecture/demonstration on the innovations of vaudeville star John “Bubbles” Sublett, who succeeded Bill “Bo Jangles” Robinson as the King of American Rhythm Tap. The piece culminated in an impressive tab “battle/duet” between Nemr and Khalid Hill.
The final piece presented the first eight minutes of a charming musical, The Unfortunate Squirrel, by Sonya Sobieski. The ensemble work delighted, highlighting themes of missed connections, unrequited longings, and finding love in The Big City.
Artistic Director Adam Koplan concluded the evening by moderating a conversation between audience and creators. Audience members weighed in on questions raised by the work—from what future drafts might look like to what it means for a white character to appropriate black speech. If success is measured by audience engagement, The Flying Carpet Theatre sets a good course with this new work!