First premise: We can't separate ourselves from our skin color. It's a coat we cannot take off and put away in the closet. And our coats aren't necessarily tailored for us — they may not flatter us.
Second premise: The world says that lighter is better.
This is the essential conflict of "The Sin in My Skin," by Elgin Poet Laureate Chasity Gunn, who uses original poetry, songs, found texts and character cameos to comment on her experience as a woman of color. This is no plain vanilla poetry reading; it's a powerful theatrical performance by a great writer whose speaking and singing voice is as clear and beautiful as her literary voice.
The costumes in this piece are more than just character accessories. They are symbolic skins that can be put on and taken off at will. Some can shed the weather, some can accentuate the figure, some can signal identity.
But when the coats come off, the last layer remains. To paraphrase another poet addressing the Great Bag Stuffer, "I am fearfully and wonderfully Brown."
Chasity Gunn presents this work one more time at Elgin Fringe Festival, Sunday at 1:30pm in the Exhibit Hall at the Hemmens Cultural Arts Center.