InHERitance: The Stories We Carry – Barbara Dooley, Fringe Reviewer

Chicago-based Heather “Byrd” Roberts turns an empty apartment into a stage for her mesmerizing exploration of what freedom might mean to a Black woman in contemporary America. Roberts sets the stage with her interpretation of the famous Nina Simone ballad, “Blackbird.” She then segues to a powerful excerpt from an interview with Ntozake Shange discussing freedom. Connecting these voices from 20th c. America with the distant past of slavery and her own pain and struggles, Roberts takes us on a deep and intimate artistic and personal journey.

Robert combines song, video, poetry, and spoken word in an award-winning piece from the St. Louis Fringe that runs less than 40 minutes. Roberts has a powerful voice and excellent delivery. She engages and challenges her audience as she shares experiences and stories which have helped form her as a Black woman.

At this moment in time, “InHERitance” seems particularly topical, but that is almost coincidental. Roberts is addressing a long arc of history and her own place in it–with art, and story, and poetry.