“Paige in Full” at the Alliance Theatre is a powerful one-woman show that tackles themes of race, nationality, identity, feminism and self-expression. Paige Hernandez, the playwright and star of the show, uses hip-hop and movement work to tell her own story about growing up in Baltimore. Trial after trial, the audience sees how Hernandez uses dance as a way to save her own life and mind.
To see an artist rip together all the pieces they need to keep pushing, and to express that on stage, is an incredible thing to watch. However, what stuck out to me the most was how Hernandez touches on the many different aspects to her identity. Paige is black, Cuban and Chinese. Every time she mentions all three she always does so in that specific order: black, then Cuban, then Chinese. She said she always claims black first, and that concept of picking something from your identity to value more is very interesting to me.
With each description of the aspects of her identity, Hernandez finds music and dance that expresses that side of herself. Through this, we see the development of her as a person, as each side of her ethnicity has a different style of contemporary dance in the show. Although the music is supposed to represent each culture, each one has a modern twist, only better expressing the type of person that Hernandez is.
Hernandez has also seen a lot of darkness in her life, and she didn’t shy away from the truth about her abusive relationships in the quest to find true love. Through powerful movement work, she painfully describes a physically abusive relationship where she feels as though she was just an accessory, just a chain to be put on or tossed to the side. It’s these feelings that highlight tones of feminism in the show, a theme that is so important now more than ever. In the wake of Brett Kavanaugh’s vote into being our newest Supreme Court Justice, after an intense sexual assault scandal, it’s imperative for our young women to know they are more than just an object to be tossed away, used up and then forgotten about.
It’s important to note that this show was also worked on by middle schoolers in Atlanta through the Alliance Theatre’s drama camp. I am so proud to see such an incredible show tell such a truthful depiction of an abusive relationship to a young audience. While some people might believe middle schoolers are too young to be exposed to such sensitive content, it’s very important that young boys and girls are taught that their voice is important, especially in the wake of the #MeToo movement.
It’s quite beautiful to watch Hernandez find her own voice through the cacophony of noise and pain in her life. Toward the end, she plays all the songs of her identity together, creating a different sound. Hernandez says she is “something new,” she is something that can’t be defined in words or paper, something that can’t be summed up or used just to be tossed away. She is strength. She is power. She is Paige in Full.
This is a show for the entire family running Oct. 6 through 13 only at the Alliance Theatre. Go see “Paige in Full” now before it’s gone. It’s a performance you don’t want to miss!
Tyler, 16, attends Maynard Jackson High School and loves theatre.