From Iron Age Theater in Philadelphia, To My Unborn Child: A Love Letter from Fred Hampton written and performed by Richard Bradford, just blew my mind. This one person show recounts the life of Chicago’s Black Panther Party (BPP) leader and founder of the Rainbow Coalition, Fred Hampton. To My Unborn Child is Hampton’s life review. A moment, snippet, the final breath of Hampton’s consciousness; his life ‘flashing before his eyes’, as he lay dying from gunshots. Bradford recounts Hampton’s life through an imaginary letter to his son, revealing, his struggles and wins, the pain of the collective and “I am the revolution”, it is what pumps through his veins.
Before you think, for even one second, you aren’t interested in seeing a serious show, I insist. To My Unborn Child is an exceptional performance. Bradford transports the audience, through exquisite dramatization. We follow Hampton as a small child, a student, the beginnings of his activism up through the moment of his death. But, Bradford does not just recount Hampton’s life through narrative he transforms himself into various characters; friends and relatives from his youth, gang members, police, his girlfriend Deborah Johnson, and all of the disenfranchised and oppressed community of Chicago he stood up and fought for. This show is incredibly tense and emotionally burdensome, but it’s not every day you see a performance that makes you feel you’re a witness to history.
Hampton was murdered by Chicago Police in 1969, while he lay sleeping next to his girlfriend, 8 months pregnant with their son. As leader of Chicago’s BPP, Hampton believed there were only 2 classes, the oppressed and the oppressor and that racism is a direct byproduct of capitalism. Hampton worked for many years to uplift and inspire others to revolutionize their situation and the lives of all working class poor. When he was assassinated, he was just 21 years old.
Bradford brings to the stage an intense piece of drama. He has resurrected a person, place and time in history as relevant today as it was in 1969.
Bounder the Rescue Dog is an original performance from Pittsburgh’s puppetry troop, Puppets in Performance, written and directed by Darlene Fedele Thompson. Thompson’s original puppets tell the story of Kyle, a young boy struggling with ADHD. Kyle’s mother is trying to help but none of her tactics seems work. Kyle has trouble sleeping, he is distracted in school and is being bullied by some other kids. One day, Kyle discovers Bounder, a stray dog who was abandoned by his family when they moved. Bounder now lives on the streets. He is lonely, hungry and frightened by Zigzag, the ‘top dog’, who bullies him. When Kyle’s math teacher recommends a service pet to Kyle’s mom a mission begins to find and rescue Bounder.
Bounder the Rescue Dog surges with creativity. I have an affinity for puppets, having grown up watching Sesame Street, The Muppets, and Fraggle Rock. This show is reminiscent of my childhood but this is not the only reason I enjoyed the show. Puppets in Performance have created a timeless skit using props from recycled material, original music, and enthusiastic puppeteers. The show will surely hold the attention of an audience of all ages. The puppets are charming and full of life. The puppeteers move the characters, springing them to life with animated charm. The imaginative and clever music definitely enlivens the performance. ‘A Dog Like Me’, sung by Bounder will melt your heart.
Bounder the Rescue Dog is less than 1 hour long. Enjoy this show, with or without a kid in tow, for a feel-good moment.
The Fifth Annual Pittsburgh Fringe Festival continues today in the Northside. For tickets and more information, click here.