POST: FringeNYC's 'Funnel Cake Flowers and the Urban Chameleons' although it was funny, it made me think


On my way to the show, I was worried that I would feel awkward. I've never been to a live show alone before, so I prepared myself to be social with strangers. I was nervous and uncomfortable because i've never traveled so far from home. It was supposed to be an hour long commute, but I arrived at the venue in about a half hour. The subway ride felt short because I love to listen to music whenever I take public transportation. It makes me feel more comfortable and more relaxed.

I got to the venue 25 minutes before showtime. There was a lot of people outside of the venue. They were scattered all over the sidewalk, so I did not know whether they were waiting to see the show, or if they were just loitering. I went in and inquired about where the line was. They told me where it was and I saw that there were a lot of people standing there, though not in a line. I asked those people if they were waiting on line to see the show and they replied "no, we're just leaving." They did not leave, so I went and waited behind them. I put my headphones on and started listening to music in order to relax and feel less alone.  A lady came out to the front and politely asked the people that were there to please move elsewhere. When they moved, I realized that I was the only person standing on line for Funnel Cake Flowers and the Urban Chameleons.

About ten minutes before the show, there were at least fifty people waiting to see the show. It was great to know that I was not going to be the only one watching the show.  However, I still felt awkward because I've never been to a live show without a companion. I look to my left and notice that one of my college counselors is waiting on line to watch the show. I was so surprised and so relieved that I knew somebody there. I approached her and realized that she was also surprised to see me there. We had a brief conversation before we were told to go inside for the show. I had a smile on my face for the rest of the night. 

Before the show had started, the audience was warned that there were going to be some technical difficulties. I did not mind because I was having a good time. The show opened up with the character of Funnel Cake Flowers, the host of the fictional "Urban Chameleons" show, giving a definition for the term "urban chameleon." An "urban chameleon" can be someone who is a descendant of immigrants, or can be immigrants themselves. As Funnel Cake Flowers puts it, an urban chameleon in "basically someone who came on a boat." This statement sparked some laughter from the audience including myself, but I was a bit skeptical because I was not sure how she would demonstrate her definition on stage.

As the show went on, I found myself laughing a lot. The show portrayed some stereotypes that are known in the black and hispanic communities: the educated black man, the helpful drug addict and the woman who made it out of the neighborhood. The educated black man had graduated college and earned multiple degrees. Funnel Cake Flowers was conducting an interview with him and inquired about his life. He spoke in a very educated manner and told Funnel Cake that he had multiple degrees, but he was raised in the "hood." The interview was being held in a house. During the interview, there was a knock on the door. The man, who seemed very responsible and educated, answered the door, only to find the mother of his kids yelling and complaining about unpaid child support. Funnel Cake signaled her cameraman to record the altercation that was taking place. The man was trying to calm the woman down very politely, but as she rampaged about his lack of responsibility, he started to show his roots. He lost his educated accent and started cursing loudly in ebonics.

After that situation was dealt with, he went back to Funnel Cake and continued with the interview, only this time he only talked in ebonics and started complaining about how his life was going downhill, despite him having multiple college degrees. He also says how he had lost the respect of some of his old friends from his old neighborhood because he chose to pursue an education. Although the outburst was so funny, it made me think about my life and my friends' lives and how this portrayal connects with us. I've noticed that people will attempt to shatter another's dreams of success in other places. This was addressed when a character was reciting a poem stating how she sought success by getting her education and moving to the suburbs. This caused many of her old friends to detest and judge her because they felt that she was not loyal to them by leaving the hood and moving to a "white neighborhood."  The portrayals were so spot on that they made me have flashbacks. 

As the show went on, I realized that an urban chameleon is not necessarily a specific type of person, and that I am an urban chameleon because the stereotypes that usually apply to Dominicans do not apply to me. There was a "segment" in the show called "lost in translation," which showed how two people with hispanic backgrounds were unable to communicate or establish a connection because one of them did not speak Spanish. I laughed because I've experienced this before. Even though I can speak English and Spanish fluently, there was a time when I did not know how to speak English, so I can empathize with someone when they struggle to communicate with anyone in English. Whenever I encounter people who are not fluent in English, whether it is someone asking for directions or if someone is taking my order at a restaurant, I try to accommodate them by speaking Spanish. Whenever I am shopping with my father, however, I usually play the role of a translator because my father is unable to speak English. Sometimes, he assumes that someone speaks Spanish because they "look" hispanic. 

I took the subway home with my friend, who was working backstage. We talked about the show as if we had seen it together. We talked about a segment from the show that depicted a drug addict, usually known as "crackheads" or "crack boos" in many urban neighborhoods, who would do favors in exchange for five dollars. My friend told me that his old neighborhood had a person like this, "His name was Vito. Cool dude" he said to me while we waited for the train to arrive.

We also talked about the "lost in translation" segment. He did not experience this as often as I did because he has lived in the Bronx all of his life and never had to worry about learning a second language. We laughed all the way home. It took me about an hour to get home. The subway stations were surprisingly filled with people. I was confused and asked my friend why there were so many people out late at night when it is only Wednesday. Then, I realized that it was still summer and most of the people in the station were teenagers. My friend and I continued to exchange stories and tell jokes until I got off the train and walked home. 

- Clay

$18 tickets

thru Aug. 30