Theater archives



Few stage personalities come as proudly miscegenated as Staceyann Chin: half black, half Chinese; Jamaican born but a longtime Brooklyn resident; a femme lesbian who admits to harboring butch fantasies. In many ways, Chin’s new one-woman show is just as unclassifiable as its creator. A coming-of-age autobiography that morphs midway into a poetry slam performance, Border/Clash begins with Chin’s modest childhood in a Jamaican backwater. Abandoned by her parents, Chin grew up under her ultra-Christian grandmother’s tutelage, eventually moving to New York, where she found her groove as a slam poet on the Lower East Side and later as a performer in Russell Simmons’s Def Poetry Jam. Harrowing though Chin’s story is meant to be, the real attraction is her verbal dexterity. This gifted vocal artist excels equally at prose and verse, and her unforced charm invigorates the play’s patchwork structure. Immensely likable, Chin remains something of a bohemian cliché. The more she emphasizes her multifaceted individuality, the less individual she becomes. Of course, no one is more aware of this than Chin, who diffuses her self-seriousness with ample self-mockery. Her “angry woman poetry” is often “laced with humor to make it go down easier,” she explains teasingly. Beating her own critics to the punch, Chin gets the last laugh, and then spins it into rhythmic gold.