Kayla Farrish's 'Put Away the Fire, dear' reclaims Black cinematic depiction

  • by Cornelius Washington
  • Tuesday February 27, 2024
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Kerime Konur, left, and Kayla Farrish in 'Put Away the Fire, dear.' <br>(photo: Elyse Mertz)
Kerime Konur, left, and Kayla Farrish in 'Put Away the Fire, dear.'
(photo: Elyse Mertz)

In San Francisco, the city often used as a setting in film noir, a new reinterpretation of Black people in cinema will be explored in Kayla Farrish's "Put Away the Fire, dear," an evening-length work that addresses the evil endeavors of casting people of color for the silver screen.

Every person of color is well aware that the world of cinema is where you go to get your stereotypes reinforced and/or created, with all of the tools of idealization put into full effect to do so. The sad, twisted fact being that sometimes people of color sign up for it.

Look at any of the films of the odious director/producer, Tyler Perry, and the recently failed musical remake of the movie, "The Color Purple."

There has been progress in diversity and inclusion in casting, to great acclaim and profits. However, the viewpoint still exists of what is best and sterling in "classic" cinema and "Old Hollywood." Within those two genres are the disgusting roles of the buck, the coon, the mammy, and the tragic mulatto. The movies that embrace these pathologies for the planet to see are a great disservice to artists, technicians, laborers and humanity.

Premiering at ODC Theater March 8-10, Farrish's work combines film, dance, and original sound design to create political and social scrutiny of the depiction of African-Americans.

Farrish, an accomplished New York City-based dancer and director, and the creator of Decent Structures Arts, has been hailed by The New York Times and recognized by Dance Magazine as one of the top screen dance makers to watch.

In the performance, a Black woman contrasts her archetype of disappearance, with potent will and grit. She unearths a journey of quaking history, through a fantastical play of unimagined roles, unbelievable love and compassion, and a power to take back the narrative.

As Farrish says of the work, "Against an inherited history of erasure as a Black American woman from the South, I take my lens and radical dreaming as weapons of resistance, creating an immersive eye through this live film to witness time-hopping, from my grandmother's perspective on the farm, to a trauma house where I imagine beyond its window views, to expanding onto grand stages and fantastical plots of American cinema where I've never existed."

Accompanied by pianist/percussionist Alex MacKinnon, "Put Away the Fire, dear" recasts the ugly archetypes of the 1930s through the 1960s, most notably the stereotype of the hard-boiled, snarky, world-weary detective as a romantic lead, and the glamorous, mysterious but desperate femme fatale, along with trite screwball comedies and musicals, to destroy antiquated mindsets and stereotypes concerning the reality of modernity, rigor, focus, subtext and style.

The six dancers re-inhabit the trope-filled roles with a new perspective.

'Put Away the Fire, dear,' March 8 & 9, 7:30pm. March 10, 5pm (ASL interpretation), at ODC Theater, 3153 17th St. Free, $24-$104.



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