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San Diego International Fringe Hit 'Josephine' Returns For Encore Performance

Tymisha Harris pays tribute to Josephine Baker in her one-woman dream cabaret show "Josephine," returning to San Diego for one performance on Nov.17 at the Spreckels Theatre.
Tymisha Harris
Tymisha Harris pays tribute to Josephine Baker in her one-woman dream cabaret show "Josephine," returning to San Diego for one performance on Nov.17 at the Spreckels Theatre.

One-woman show pays tribute to Josephine Baker

San Diego International Fringe Hit 'Josephine' Returns For Encore Performance
San Diego International Fringe Hit 'Josephine' Returns For Encore Performance GUESTS: Tymisha Harris, "Josephine" co-creator and performer Michael Marinaccio, "Josephine" co-creator and director Beth Accomando, KPBS arts reporter

Last year the play Josephine won outstanding solo performance and best show at the San Diego international fringe Festival. The 1 woman show pays tribute to singer and dancer Josephine Baker. She returns to where it all began for one performance this Friday. During its first run last year we spoke with start to Micha Harris in director Michael branching out.What got you guys interested in doing a show on Josephine Baker?I think I have been interested in her since I was 17. She is fascinating.Once we started researching her and watching documentary footage we became obsessed and this show is still part of a development process for us so we are still making changes. The ending has been different each of the 3 nights we have done it so we are still finding things. We are still digging into her life, there is so much amazing information out there about her. She lived the life of 100 people.She got to live this life and experience as many different things as a person can.For people not familiar about Josephine Baker give me a little background on her to remind people of who she was.She was a woman born in St. Louis in 1906. She finally got her start in Paris after being in New York and then she did the famous banana dance in France. Then she went on to come back to the states all the while becoming a huge fan in Europe. The states were still very segregated and they were not feeling her.She really was the first African-American international superstar. She had to go to France to do that because she wasn't accepted here in the United State. She was known all across the world and traveled everywhere. She was best friends with Princess Grace of Monaco and she was having affairs and was a spy for the French resistance. She did everything.The whole world is falling apart, one built on hatred and intolerance but I got myself a new gig. I suppose the French resistance recruited me because I was a celebrity and I traveled so much. They said a celebrity will not get checked at a checkpoint so they would stop these messages in my undergarments and send me on my way. I said are you sure, they said yes and it worked. Imagine the only person they don't strip church is the exhibitionist.Before the end of her life she came back and was finally accepted and had a comeback tour in the early 70s and eventually she passed away in 1975 in Paris after doing her 50 year anniversary performance. It was a show that was financed by Princess Grace and Sophia Loren and a few other incredibly influential people. They gave her a 15 minute standing ovation and at the end of it she said now I can die. 4 days later they found her in her Paris hotel room surrounded by great reviews of her performance and she did die peacefully in her sleep.You mix music along with scenes from her life, how did you decide on how you were going to put this together?I knew I wanted to showcase song, dance, and theater. I wanted something that encapsulated all of it. We came up with the concept early on and for me it felt like we were putting the pieces together to create this beautiful arc of it and a story accessible and historically accurate. It also had a little bit of quality. We had no idea and we are excited about it.Were you drawing a lot on actual things while writing it? Was it her voice or was a lot of it written?There are a lot of direct quotes from Josephine Baker like her speech from the March on Washington. We did not do the whole speech but every line of that is directly from Josephine Baker smell. There I quotes scattered throughout it so yes a lot of her own voice.The newspaper clippings.She sure was a sensation and we will see how audiences react to this radical [NULL] .Why did you feel it was important to do something on Josephine Baker to remind people who she was?Her story stands for a lot of people. The things she went through because of her skin color in America. Over there it was a transformative situation, I am really attached to it. Some of the things she went through I have gone through in my career and we need to open these color walls and see all kinds of people in a different light.I think Josephine Baker in particular , people didn't know much about her I thought this was a great opportunity to share that with an audience and for people to come and learn somethingShe is someone who seems is so ahead of her time and in so many ways.She broke so many boundaries with her gender identity and she was well known to have many lovers and be very open about it.She adopted 12 kids from four different continents. The things that she achieved our almost impossible to believe and yet all completely true.All right well I want to thank you both very much and I wish you the best of luck with the show.Thank you so very much. From the bottom of my heart the whole production things you.Josephine has an encore performance Saturday at the sparkle theater. You can hear restful interview by going to cinema junkie podcast. Join us again tomorrow for KPBS midday edition at noon and if you ever miss a show you can check out the mid- day edition podcast online. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh, thanks for listening.

Last year "Josephine" won Outstanding Solo Performance and Best Show at San Diego International Fringe Festival. The one-woman dream cabaret pays tribute to singer-dancer Josephine Baker. Now, "Josephine" returns to where it all began, the Spreckels Theatre for one performance this Friday.

I spoke with star/co-creator Tymisha Harris and co-creator/director Michael Marinaccio back in 2016 after multiple sold out performances of their show. The production was a work in progress and the creators experimented with different endings each performance at San Diego Fringe.

After debuting in San Diego, "Josephine" returned to Harris and Marinaccio's hometown of Orlando, Florida before starting a 2017 North American tour. The first stop in that tour was the Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival. Eventually, it made its way to New York City for its Off-Broadway premiere at Soho Playhouse. Now, Josephine returns to the place where it all began for a single performance as a kind of satellite event to the 2018 Canadian Association of Fringe Festivals that is being held here in San Diego.

The version of "Josephine" being performed on Friday will be updated and extended with new songs and scenes. Marinaccio described the show as a "burlesque cabaret dream play combines cabaret, theater and dance to tell the story of the iconic Josephine Baker, the first African-American international superstar and one of the most remarkable figures of the 20th Century. The show is intended for adult audiences, as it contains adult content and nudity."

Josephine Baker

Baker was born in St. Louis in 1906 and only became an international superstar after moving to France in the early '20s.

"Josephine" will return to Winnipeg on Nov. 30 through Dec. 3 and then return to Soho Playhouse in New York City early next year. There will also be another tour of the show in the summer of 2018.

If you were not one of the lucky few to catch the show when it premiered last year then I urge you to check it out. Harris is a dynamo worthy of playing the great Baker. Plus the play provides a much needed reminder of how amazing Baker was.

"Josephine" has an encore San Diego performance Friday at the Spreckels Theatre. You can hear my full interview with Harris and Marinaccio on Cinema Junkie Podcast 82.