Two Black Deaf Comedians Share The Stage At 2019 Fringe Fest
Keith Banks's One Man Show "Becoming Grandma Kat" will perform at the 2019 KeyBank Rochester Fringe Festival on September 14th via 6:45pm at The Avyarium (274 Goodman St N #D242). Tickets are $10 at rochesterfringe.com, where more information is also available. The remaining tickets will be available at the door starting one hour before curtain opens.
This interactive comedy show is about a young man witnesses a crime and is placed in the Witness Protection Program(WITSEC). Trapped in his new persona, he faces several scenarios that test his ability to keep his true identity hidden. This hilarious spoof will involve audience participation in order for Grandma Kat to stay safe during her journey in the program. Written and performed by Keith Banks, and featuring Sheena Lyles aka Queen Foreverr.
Keith Banks Jr., a deaf entertainer & alumnus from Rochester Institute Of Technology (RIT) with a degree in Int. Hospitality & Service Management. Growing up in Orlando, FL, Keith lost majority of his hearing at a young age which eventually he learned American Sign Language (ASL). In addition, Keith found pleasure performing on stage whether its dancing, acting, signing songs. He began to be involved in performing arts programs in high school & college. He is known for giving the audience a mixture of creativity and emotional performing experience in ASL.
The inspiration of "Becoming Grandma Kat" sparked when he performed a skit in 2011 , alongside his friends, to honored Tyler Perry by portraying his most known character, Madea at an annual Black History Program event at Florida School For The Deaf & The Blind (FSDB). As a result, the audience really loved the character so much they wanted to see more. Keith decided to adapt the character, portraying his grandma "Grandma Kat." He continues to make special appearances at school events until the end of his senior year. After graduating from FSDB, Keith enrolled to RIT & began writing the story about Grandma Kat which eventually evolved into a rough draft two act play called "Becoming Grandma Kat." During the Spring of 2015, Masquers Drama Club (MDC) & NTID Performing Arts Department at National Technical Institute Of The Deaf (NTID) sponsored the show by showcasing selected scenes from the script and provide Q/A session at the end of the show to collect feedback from the audience. Overall, the show was a success and was also later performed at MuCCC's College Theatre Festival that year. The audience members from both shows suggested Keith to write a one man show based on his character, Grandma Kat, an up close interactive experience. "My goal is to aim advancement of deaf entertainment showcasing in our communities, due to scarcely few deaf talent artists being spotlight in the mainstream media." Keith said. After graduating from RIT & working full time at Disney World, Keith still manages to find time from his busy schedule to perform on stage portraying his beloved character.
Meanwhile, Sheena Lyles credits her friend, Jill Cooper for her soaring success as a comedian/actress. Growing up in a deaf family home in York, PA, it was her excessive silliness, family members, and good friends that prompted her to steer her into making comedy skits. Ms. Lyles has been making people laugh ever since spotlighting her work on Facebook page via Queen Foreverr, Deaf Women of Color's Conference (D.W.C), and National Black Deaf Advocacy (N.B.D.A.). Not only is she a comedian, she has proven to be a versatile actress appearing in such diverse films as the TVOne crime series, "For My Woman & For My Man" where she played a lead role as a real-life murderer Daphne Wright and a third supporting role of Aveance. Her comedy has spread all over the deaf world and soon to the hearing world. You can find more Sheena Lyles's work on her social media outlets such as Facebook & YouTube channel via Queen Foreverr, & Instagram via MsDeafQueen.
In conclusion, Keith is thrilled to return back to Rochester for his one man show at Rochester Fringe Festival with the help of his comedian colleague, Sheena Lyles aka Queen Forever. For more information or updates about "Becoming Grandma Kat," you can find it on their Facebook page.
More about Fringe: Since its debut in 2012, the KeyBank Rochester Fringe Festival has become one of the most successful fringe festivals in the U.S., attracting more than 78,000 attendees in 2017. Now an 11-day event, this multi-arts festival boasts over 500 performances and events - more than a quarter of which are free - in 25+ venues in downtown Rochester, NY. Celebrating and inspiring creativity, the Fringe - which is partially curated by the non-profit festival and partially by festival venues - includes everything from theatre, music, comedy, and dance, to children's entertainment , spoken word, visual arts, film, and much more, Please visit rochesterfringe.com for a complete schedule, tickets, and more information.