On November 18, Akron-based singer-songwriter Angie Haze delivered a powerful performance at the Akron Civic Theatre unlike anything I had seen before – and likely, unlike anything I will see again. The experience is still resonating in my heart even two weeks after seeing her show, titled “May My Stories be Worn Like My Coats.”
Angie and her fellow performers of the Angie Haze Project cleverly intertwined singing, dancing, live painting, instrumentals and poetry into one spectacular display, creating an artistic spectacle that has been accurately described as an “immersive musical event.”
The show stands out to me for its bold method of delivering the messages of hope, unity, and empowerment. Each member of the Angie Haze Project contributed their many talents throughout the evening, all while dancers floated on and off stage, and local artist Todd Volkmer painted a spectacular piece of art that coincided with the music and lyrics. Several members of the band were highlighted with specific songs, including saxophonist Justin Tibbs, who played a compelling solo capturing what it is like to be a black man in America today. Countless musical instruments peppered the set list, many performed by the multi-talented Rik Williger and Meryl Hornyak. Rachel Osherow sang a show-stopping and captivating Jewish prayer in honor of the victims of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting.
The show was a rollercoaster of emotions that was guided by Haze’s groundbreaking songs, including the raw and therapeutic “Gingerbread Man,” the long-awaited “Smooth,” and the High Arts Grand Prize Award Winning song, “I Am, You Are, We Are Enough.” The theme of these songs was overcoming struggle and trauma to heal, become stronger, and thrive. In a time when the world is filled with uncertainty and turmoil, Haze reinforced the importance of acceptance, equality, and resiliency.
It’s hard to put the Angie Haze Project into one category, or to fit the band into one box – and that’s the beautiful thing about the group. Their aim is not to simply entertain – but also to enlighten and engage the audience. It’s an art form that is unfamiliar to most, but is certainly needed, and welcomed. Akron is fortunate to have this extreme and exquisite talent as part of its arts community – and the world is just as lucky to have a force like Angie Haze and the Angie Haze Project.