By Walter Rutledge
The oral tradition of storytelling is one the oldest forms of remembering and honoring the past.
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Eventually this art form evolved into the myths and legends that define many civilizations to this day. Tramaine Montell Ford has created new urban legends with his one-man show entitled The Tramaine Experience, which is presently at the American Theatre of Actors located at 314 West 54th Street.
Playwright and actor Ford describes the production as “a play within a play”. Tramaine returns to his old neighbor, the Cabrini Green Projects in Chicago, to perform. He is late and four of his neighbors fill in for him. We meet Mr. Jarvis Williams, a homeless drug addict, Patrick “Pookie” Washington, his dope dealing rapper son, Laquanda Jenkins, Pookie’s pregnant girlfriend, and Habib Sharif, owner of the corner store.
Ford transforms into four well-developed characters studies each deals with the violence, drugs and dysfunction in their lives and community. Over the course of seventy minutes these four characters endear themselves to the audience. In our laughter we feel their pain; and three of the characters shares with the audience how the inner city has tragically taken a toll on their lives.
Ford has courageously chosen to create a production that is larger that the people it portrays or the stories they tell. Although the production contains some autobiographical elements it is primarily composites of many individuals he encountered growing up the Cabrini Green Projects. These characters embody the “every man” concept; they have the universal common thread that runs through all humanity.
With the introduction of the fifth character, Ford portraying himself; we see how people can rise above their situations. The Tramaine Experience also takes us on a journey into a world that is rapidly disappearing- for better or worse. The Cabrini Green projects are being demolished as part of Chicago’s downtown revitalization.
Originally it was an inner city dumping ground for the poor during the era of “white flight” to the suburbs. Then the urban blight of the 70’s and 80’s made the Cabrini Green Projects a notorious killing field. The high unemployment rate, diminished educational goals, drugs abuse, and low expectations created an environment of self-destruction.
The resurgence of the inner city has made this property extremely valuable. The Cabrini Green residences are being displaced and the community literally erased. It is being replaced by million dollar homes, a condition besetting almost every inner city across America. The Tramaine Experience has unwittingly elevated Ford to the status of a creator of urban mythology.
The production will run through October 2 with performance on Thursday September 29th, Friday September 30th and Saturday October 1st at 8pm and Saturday and Sunday October 2nd at 2pm. For ticket information, visit www.smarttix.com or call 212.868.4444. For more information on the production and upcoming performance, visit www.thetramaineexperience.com.