This week, Solo Mio Festival opens with a toast to Idris Ackamoor and Rhodessa Jones, who have powered through 15 years of performance with their company, Cultural Odyssey. The fearsome twosome are presenting a retrospective of their work, including Jones' infamous 1979 show about her experience as a peep-show dancer, The Legend of Lily Overstreet (which plays Wednesday, Sept. 13). She once told me she'd never do the show again, because it entailed getting nekkid — preparation for which required too many hours at the gym. “I just said, 'Fuck it.' Where I once had buns, I now have loaves,” she says cheerfully, adding, “You've got to love your body at any age.”
Back in the day, Lily caused a ruckus in the women's community, for Jones didn't exactly condemn the peep-show biz. “Some white feminists felt they had to get up in my face and tell me a black woman shouldn't be doing that kind of thing. I'd ask them if they planned on going into the clubs to talk to the women there and they'd say, 'No, we'd never go in a place like that,' ” she recalls with exasperation. “And I'd be, like, 'Then how are we going to inform the sisters about the movement?' “
Lily was Jones' “maiden voyage” as a performance artist (outside of her booth at Fantasies of the Flesh, that is). While moving out of her space at the Eureka Theatre (where she premiered Lily), she met jazz musician/performer Ackamoor. Cultural Odyssey was born shortly thereafter, and Lily moved on to New York, where Jones' bro', the amazing choreographer Bill T. Jones, reworked her staging, and the late Keith Haring painted her “decor.” (The latter will be used for this show, too.)
Now, Lily returns, revised a bit: Its titular heroine, like Jones, has grown up. She will be 50 years old this time around, with many new insights about the nature of eroticism. So what do peep-show patrons find erotic? “They love watching two girls do it, for one thing, and most men are capable of [getting into] whips and chains, because most men are afraid of women, and afraid of vaginas,” Jones muses. “I'd like to do a peep show where the curtains open and there's this huge vagina in the window pulsing and dripping, and sometimes it sucks onto the window,” she laughs uproariously. “I haven't gotten around to that one yet.”
She and Ackamoor have, however, executed many other shows over the years, some of which will also play this week. Among them is the world premiere of Street Corner Symphony, a show about homelessness, and The Blue Stories: Black Erotica on Letting Go, a multimedia, autobiographical piece. All will be performed at the Bayfront Theater in Fort Mason; call 392-4400 for tickets.
By Laura Jamison