Historical Records Review – Improv Hip-Hop

Stephen Cannon, Derek Jeremiah Reid, and Andrew Hendren in HISTORICAL RECORDS - Photo courtesy of Michelle Danner Acting Studio
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Created and directed by Derek Jeremiah Reid, HISTORICAL RECORDS stars eight students of hip-hop at the Michelle Danner Acting Studio. To quote director Reid: “Half a century ago, the streets of New York birthed hip-hop, while clear across the map in LA, The Groundlings were laying down the laws of improv comedy. Now the two art forms have collided to create HISTORICAL RECORDS…we’re here to feel it, question, it, spit it back with a fresh flow…we invite you to dive deep into the heart of history, to laugh, reflect, and maybe, just maybe, understand a little more about our collective journey.” Reid is known for his portrayal of Barack Obama in several shows and was a writer/director/performer at “Top Story Weekly,” Los Angeles’ long-running topical sketch show. His parody web series “Black Spider-Man” has been screened at multiple West Coast comic conventions.

Io Zeimar, Stephen Cannon, Andrew Hendren, and Ryan Foust – Photo courtesy of Michelle Danner Acting Studio

The enthusiastic and motivated cast of performers (Andrew Hendren, IO Zeimar, Nikita Francois, Stephen Cannon, Maria Sweeney, Ryan Foust, Abby A-O, and Keshav Venkat) work hard to offer the audience their unrehearsed and extemporaneous view of hip-hop, a style putting poetry into music with a strong beat and movement punctuating the two. The audience was given the opportunity to name several figures from history, and the group took off from there. Derek Jeremiah Reid – the talented creator, director, producer, and performer – clearly knew his way around hip-hop and gave the audience a run for its money.

Io Zeimar, Stephen Cannon,Andrew Hendren, and Ryan Foust – Photo courtesy of Michelle Danner Acting Studio

The cast’s energy and eagerness were obvious. Unfortunately, however, they were not quite ready for prime time. The show’s concept was powerful and vibrant – an unscripted and rhythmic journey through time, reimagining the lives of iconic American historical figures through the dynamic lens of freestyle hip-hop – but members of the cast were often stuck for rhymes and had some difficulty adhering to the beat provided by the DJ on site. Perhaps the production should stick with the skilled performance by their director and mentor and arrange for the cast to share the spotlight at a later date. A sea of shining white faces also seemed to miss the original African-American cultural style marked by words like “Yo” and “Bro.” Happily, some were able to handle and appreciate the show’s hip-hop background.

HISTORICAL RECORDS runs through March 30, 2024, with performances at 8 p.m. on Saturdays. The Michelle Danner Acting Studio is located at 10820 Washington Blvd., Culver City, CA 90232. Tickets are $30. For information and reservations, go online.


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