Feeding the Dragon Burns at Station Theater: Arts: Smile Politely


A red light shines outside the heavy wooden door of the station theatre. In a sparkling and unmissable return to the stage, Feed the dragon captures hearts and minds. Latrelle Bright shines brightly in this one woman show, set in a library.

Sharon Washington’s solo piece, Feed the dragon, burns with wit and wisdom. The Station Theatre’s Celebration Company, for their first official return to the stage, warms the audience with charm, candor and creativity. Proposed before the pandemic, director Jackie Lowenstein and her only interpreter aspired to present this deeply personal story of a brilliant black designer. Latrelle Bright, portraying young Sharon, is energetic and electric, like sparks in this tale of personal narrative, poetic language and seafaring identity.

Feed the dragon delivers “the true story of the little girl who lived in the library”, with deft skill and monumental significance. The library, a veritable St. Agnes, fully saturated with the color and culture of 1970s New York, is fertile ground for the young, intelligent and imaginative Sharon. From the rooftop of the Washington family apartment to the hungry, demanding furnace in the basement, the story radiates symbolism, giving us tall towers and dragons. Words are also charged with meaning; a world where names have power and speech becomes a spell.

The importance of language resonates everywhere Feed the dragon, from word choice to dialects and accents. The scenes are punctuated and framed with quotes, including many from black authors like WEB Debois, James Baldwin, Zora Neale Hurston and Langston Huges. Bright, like Sharon, continually morphs into character after character, blazing with humor and humanity. Precociously reciting his numbers in Yiddish and Greek, or mirroring the distinctive twang of his Jewish neighbors and relatives in Charleston, Latrelle Bright is an expert chameleon. Frankly addressing the survival-based code-switching demanded of Sharon Washington’s Black family, the show also demonstrates Washington’s extraordinary excellence in storytelling.

A gripping and heartbreaking coming of age story, Feed the dragon transforms a fairy tale into an incendiary self-portrait. Latrelle Bright is instantly captivating, leading the audience to infectious laughter or tense, held breath. Within the walls of the black box theatre, Bright’s mastery of volume dynamics is clear: his magnetic silence, his resounding proclamations. Rooted in the physical places attached to history, this show also explores the definition of our own stories. In an illuminating speech after the show, the audience declared the performance, “New, refreshing”, and said the production, at times, “felt like a memory”. Future audiences should expect to see identity, community and belonging intertwine as Sharon, through Latrelle Bright, searches for magic and meaning.

The sound (Lindsay Jones) and lighting (Jesse Folks) provide an understated but appropriate base for Bright’s performance. With such a strong end to its 2021 lineup, Station Theater fans can expect more inclusive and significant productions in the coming year.

Friday performances of Feed the dragon are nearly sold out, with tickets possibly available for walk-ins at the door. Additionally, Saturday will feature a streamable live show.

Feed the dragon
The Celebration Company at the Theater de la Gare
223 N Broadway, Urbana
December 3-5, F-Sat 7:30 p.m., Sun 2:30 p.m.
Get ticket information here.

Photo from the top of the Station Theater Facebook page.

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