Ang(ela) Bey admits that they were “quite a shy child” growing up, spending untold hours alone in their room. As an agoraphobic queer child, they avoided dealing with people when they could.
But they’ve come a long way since then. Now, they are presenting alone onstage in front of strangers in their new stage work “COMET,” which premiered at the new Painted Bride in West Philly on Aug. 25 and will run through Sept. 3.
In addition to performing their own work onstage, Bey is displaying their artwork along with at least ten other artists working in a variety of media, in an art installation thematically linked to “COMET.” Both the stage play and the art installation deal with the issue of trauma many young people encounter while growing up, how they deal with it, and hopefully heal from it.
According to the Painted Bride’s press release, the one-person play “directed by Ryan Rebel and written by Ang(ela) Bey, tells the story of Sarah, an agoraphobic painter still living in her childhood home in West Philadelphia. When Sarah’s night is interrupted by an inevitable phone-call, she’s thrust into space – literally. Now, Sarah must find her way back to Earth or be lost forever. COMET is equal parts memory-play and parable about Black girls growing up too fast. COMET is also a celebration of the formative years of our imagination and the worlds we create to protect ourselves. COMET asks, what is the cost of staying in a child’s place – not to be seen nor heard?”
Bey admits that, while the play is somewhat autobiographical, “It’s not a traditional one-person play. You will meet other people.”
Bey prefers not to go into detail how that will work, lest the effect they’re going for be spoiled. They admit that, in some respects, “COMET” can be called “a horror play,” in that many of the things that cause trauma in children can be quite horrific.
“There are scares,” the artist warns.
As such, Bey says that a “chill zone” will be provided in case audience members find some aspects of either the performance or the art to be too intense. This space can be used at any time either before or during the performance if needed.
Raised in Southwest Philadelphia, through their multidisciplinary art, Bey has long-since overcome the isolationist tendencies of their childhood to become a significant figure on Philadelphia’s arts scene. They are the founder of Upstream Performance Collaborative and co-artistic director of Shoe Box Theatre Collective. Bey has also worked in a variety of capacities with such local groups as Azuka Theatre, Theatre Horizon, Theatre Exile, Shakespeare in Clark Park and many others.
Both the art installation and “COMET” the stage play runs through Sept. 3 at the new Painted Bride arts space, 5212 Market Street. Along with Bey, the event is being co-presented by the Painted Bride, Black Theatre Alliance of Philadelphia and Upstream Performance Collaborative. For more information and tickets, visit https://paintedbride.org/events/COMET/.