Smile Politely

Feeding the Dragon burns bright at the Station Theatre

A red light glows outside the heavy wooden door to the Station Theatre. In a sparkling, unmissable return to the stage, Feeding the Dragon captures hearts and minds. Latrelle Bright shines radiantly in this one-woman show, set in a library.

Sharon Washington’s one-woman play, Feeding the Dragon, burns with wit and wisdom. The Celebration Company at Station Theatre, in their first official return to the stage, warms audiences with charm, candor, and creativity. Proposed pre-pandemic, director Jackie Lowenstein and her sole performer aspired to showcase this deeply personal story of a brilliant Black creative. Latrelle Bright, portraying the young Sharon, is energetic and electric, as sparkles in this tale of personal narrative, poetic language, and navigating identity.

Feeding the Dragon delivers “the true story of the little girl who lived in the library,” with deft skill and monumental importance. The library, a very real St. Agnes, saturated entirely with the color and culture of 1970’s New York City, is fertile soil for the young, intelligent, imaginative Sharon. From the roof of the Washington family apartment, to the hungry, demanding furnace in the basement, the story radiates symbolism, giving us high towers and dragons. Words, too, are imbued with meaning; a world where names have power and spoken word becomes spell.

The importance of language echoes throughout Feeding the Dragon, from word choice to dialects and accents. Scenes are punctuated and framed by quotations, many by Black authors like W.E.B. Debois, James Baldwin, Zora Neale Hurston, and Langston Huges. Bright, as Sharon, endlessly transforms into character after character, blazing with humor and humanity. Precociously reciting her numbers in Yiddish and Greek, or mirroring the distinctive twang of her Jewish neighbors and her relatives in Charleston, Latrelle Bright is an expert chameleon. Addressing frankly the survival-based code-switching demanded of Sharon Washington’s Black family, the show also demonstrates Washington’s extraordinary storytelling excellence.

A riveting, heart-wrenching coming-of-age story, Feeding the Dragon kindles a fairy tale into an incendiary self-portrait. Latrelle Bright is instantly captivating, guiding audiences to infectious laughter, or tense, bated breath. Within the blackbox theater walls, Bright’s mastery of volume dynamics is clear: her silence magnetic, her proclamations ringing. Grounded in the physical locations attached to the story, this show also explores defining our own histories. In an illuminating talk-back after the show, audiences declared the performance, “New, refreshing”, and said the production, at times, “Felt like a memory.” Future audiences should expect to watch 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 yet apt foundation for Bright’s performance. With such a strong end to its 2021 programming, fans of the Station Theatre can look forward to more inclusive and important productions in the coming year.

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

Feeding the Dragon
The Celebration Company at the Station Theatre
223 N Broadway, Urbana
December 3rd-5th, F-Sa 7:30 p.m., Su 2:30 p.m.
Get ticket information here.

Top photo from The Station Theatre’s Facebook page.

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