Writer and performer Echo Brown has received critical acclaim throughout the Bay for “Black Virgins Are Not For Hipsters.” The one-woman show is a humorous exploration of race, sex, and black womanhood in the 21st century. We spoke with Brown in light of her upcoming performances at USF’s Studio Theater on March 7 and 8, as part of the Global Women’s Rights Forum.
1.) Where are you from, and what did you do before writing this show?
I’m from Cleveland. Right before the show, I worked for an award winning non-profit called Challenge Day, an organization that travels around the world providing transformational workshops in high schools.
2.) Why decide to tell this story as a one-woman show? What advantage did it offer you as a storyteller?
Initially, I was going to write a one-woman show about how difficult dating is in the Bay Area, but as I started writing the show, other personal traumas started to emerge — and I realized I was writing a very different show. The show turned into the story of the loss of my virginity with reflections on how I grew up, my time at Dartmouth, and my time in Germany.
3.) Black Virgins Are Not For Hipsters has been praised for balancing humor with a deeper exploration of race and black identity. Why did you decide to incorporate humor, instead of keeping up a serious, sober tone the whole time?
In order to create the most dynamic show possible, I felt like there needed to be a good deal of humor. Humor disarms people so that when you get to heavier parts, they are more willing to receive what you have to say. That’s also the reason I have people get up and dance during the show, so that they have fun and loosen up and so that it transforms the audience from observers to active participants.
4.) How long did it take you to feel comfortable revealing details about your dating and sex life in front of a live audience? Is there still any anxiety about it, or are you long past that?
I did not have any anxiety about being vulnerable on stage given my past work with Challenge Day, where I also had to be very vulnerable at certain parts of the workshop.
5.) Who is the show for? Did you write it with a specific audience in mind?
The show is not for a specific audience. Given the vulnerability and authenticity, it has resonated with a wide variety of people — across race, age, sexuality. People feel like they are able to connect to the show because of how personal it is.
6.) What would you want a USF student to be thinking as they leave the show?
Each person walks away with a different experience. I don’t have any hopes for what that might be. If I had to choose something, it’d be that they have a better understanding of the multi-dimensionality of black humanity and black womanhood. I’d like audiences to walk away feeling challenged to dismantle stereotypes they might have about black women.
Photo courtesy of Tiadee Too