BWW Review: HANDS UP HOODIES DOWN - A Show That Matters

"These lives matter and these stories deserve to be told" - Chelsea Manasseri

The Vortex's production of HANDS UP HOODIES DOWN by Curator/Director/Writer/Poet, Zell Miller III, is a work of art in every sense of the word. Combining monologues, dance, poetry, song, rhythm and rap into a stunning experience that grabs the very heart of the audience and doesn't let go. The effect is profound and moving.

HANDS UP HOODIES DOWN premiered at The Vortex in March during a limited run, some of the content has obviously been updated to include more recent, tragic events in the seemingly unending violence committed against African-American men and women by police all over the country. The performance tells its story in a series of vignettes giving the audience a stark narrative of the past, present and future of the African-American community. Every moment is filled with the anger, grief, joy, pain, rage, and hope of the #blacklivesmatter movement.

Zell Miller III leads the Ashé Arts Collective in the show with his magnetic presence and his nearly Shakespearian turn of phrase. The entire cast turns in a stunning performance, standouts include Chelsea Manasseri and her beautiful singing voice, clear, mournful and soul searing. Hip hop dancer Jesse Martinez wows with his perfect moves. World class M.C.'s K.A.N.N. KASSO and Da'Shade Moonbeam, are in perfect sync for their duets. Drummers Ngadesa Tchukmon, Adam Williams,Tonya Lyles and Liu provide a stirring beat. While Sadé Jones, Danielle Young, Breaion Shanique, Tiana Ejanee and Kelene Blake with their beautiful tribal dances move to the loud beat and are made ethereal through outstanding staging and lighting that casts their shadows upon the bare walls. Lighting Designer Jason Amato creates pure emotion with light and shadow, the effect is lovely and haunting. HANDS UP HOODIES DOWN strikes at the culture of racism in America, hitting the mark with heart wrenching accuracy. It would be difficult for any audience member to leave the theatre not feeling changed. Every Austinite who believes themselves to be living in 'post-racial' America, needs to see this show, see just far we have to go as men and women, as a community, as humans.

HANDS UP HOODIES DOWN Conceived and Directed by Zell Miller III

Playing at The Vortex Theatre Thursday thru Saturday, September 26.

Running time: 70 minutes with one intermission

Tickets: $10 - $20

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From This Author Lynn Beaver