In New York’s Soho and East Village, I know many of the smaller off-broadway theatres, moreso than I do my own San Francisco hood, often the case when you move somewhere. I recently discovered The Marsh Theatre, which is tucked away on the Mission’s Valencia Street, easy to miss if passing by car.
Around it is a myriad of restaurants, bars and coffee shops and so this community theatre discovery fits in perfectly. Dark and circular, small and intimate, you feel as if you’re joining the actor (s) on stage or will be asked to any minute, if you’re in the front row, which is where I sat for the one woman show: The Magnificence of the Disaster.
Most touching is the personal aspect of it. Rebecca Fisher, who is the incredible one woman talent, is the daughter of Emily Fisher, who was the well-known murdered Memphis arts patron, a tragedy that happened now over a decade ago.
The story? A memorable, oddly humorous at times, raw, authentic, touching, yet inspirational account of Rebecca’s life in Memphis growing up with her drug taking brother and alcoholic father. She recounts the unusually separate yet meaningful relationship she has with her mother despite the so many dysfunctional aspects of their everyday lives.
Using very few props, she has bountless energy that keeps the audience at the edge of their seats as she quickly moves from moments of tearful and heart wrenching pain from her mother’s murder and historical accounts of the south to amusing but at times cynical snapshots of her relatives all with perfectly rehearsed accents of each colorful personality.
Throughout the play, you can ‘feel’ each character vividly. At times, you want to reach out and give a hug to the character she is portraying at the time, even if they have become nothing more than a voice in the clouds, the unseen smoke coming from her lips as she depicts her chain smoker grandfather sitting on a small and frail wooden chair.
Rebecca says during an interview, “Giving a voice and perspective to the situation was the only way I knew how to own it, discover it, make sense of it, and come to appreciate how bad it got. Ironically, I could only do this through the theatre. Writing about it gave me the opportunity to transform something terrible into something creative with humor, grace, movement, comedy and non-linear thinking: qualities missing in the headline murder stories.” You did just that Rebecca and it was beautiful to watch.