Reviews and Testimonials: A collection of media reviews and personal testimonies of what people feel about Wambui Bahati's "Miss Inspiration's" One-Woman Shows and other Presentations.
I Am Domestic Violence provoked solemn reflection
Wambui Bahati's challenging one woman show electrifies
POSTED BY KYLE WALSH ON FRI, MAR 30, 2012 AT 2:30 PM
"I am domestic violence!" Wambui Bahati shouted from the crowd, surprising the audience. I, too, was surprised—though for a different reason. I'm not usually a fan of solo theatre performances, and given the subject matter, I came into the Spatz Theatre somewhat skeptical of how the show would go. Domestic violence is a subject that could be difficult to cover solo; but Bahati has clearly perfected her one woman show. Her transition between characters was seamless, even in the middle of stories of utter tragedy, she would slide into a character that would both make the audience roar with laughter and brim with emotion.
The play was introduced with a word of caution: the subject matter of the show was not light in any form and the organizers understood if people in the audience needed to leave to recuperate. Though I stayed in my seat, the powerful tales she wove on stage had an intense effect; a sad reminder of the normality of domestic violence, from the abusive spouse to the overly aggressive parent.
Strangely enough, the climax of the show wasn't during the actual play, it was during her Q&A afterwards. Bahati answered questions from the audience and spoke about her life, her battles with mental illness, homelessness, performing on Broadway, traveling across the States and how *I Am Domestic Violence* came to be.
Her own raw explanation of her story was truly the most powerful aspect of the night, as—at first—the characters she portrayed during the earlier performance seemed very archetypal. Learning that the bulk of them were based on her life experiences left the theatre in a state of solemn reflection, though I'm positive everyone in the room felt the confidence and energy that Bahati held in her heart.
I Am Domestic Violence was a one night only free public event March 28 at the Spatz Theatre, presented by the Province of Nova Scotia. (Article Online Here)
I received it today. [Balancing Act - The Musical DVD] I had already purchased a copy about a year ago, but I loaned it to my doctor... : ) She said she'll get it back soon. In the meantime, I decided I need another copy--one to loan and one to watch. : ) LOVE this show! it has helped me (and also a friend or two) to accept having bipolar disorder; it has helped a friend working with mental ill patients to understand them (us) better; ultimately, it has made me laugh, cry, and to recognize my MAGNIFICENCE!!!
Such a gift to the mental health community!!!
3rd year Master of Divinity student in Chicago, IL
Let me first say thank you for bringing your dynamic performance to [our community]. People have been talking about it ever since. I have not seen anyone receive a standing ovation at our luncheons - but you certainly received a very long standing ovation. What a testament to the power of your performance. We are all wondering how we can top that next year. And I don't think we can . . . (please contact Mark at the Gig Bureau for the name of the organization and verification).
Wambui, many thanks to you for an inspiring launch to our Summit. People were truly energized by your story, approach, and ideas. Several people referred to your presentation when making their presentations throughout the two days.
—Judith A. Cook, Ph.D., Professor and Director
Jessica A. Jonikas, M.A.
Center on Mental Health Services Research and Policy
BACK STAGE (New York City)
BY JOHN HOGLUND
One of the perks of cabaret is its ability to redefine itself in unconventional ways. Such was the case with Wambui Bahati in her one- woman cabaret-theatre foray. “Balancing Act: A One-Woman Musical.” at Don’t Tell Mama. With brilliant musical director Curvie McMurray at the piano, Bahati (whose given name is John-Ann Washington) presented a tour de force that galvanized the room.
With a promising theatrical career that got sidetracked as a result of undiagnosed bipolar disorder, resulting in a kinetic lifestyle that spun out of control for years, Bahati faced emotional abuse, homelessness, the loss of custody of her two children, and several institutionalizations before she bounced back. And it’s all incorporated into this bruising, schizophrenic cabaret-theatre piece that is both harsh and poignant.
Bahati handles it all with a flair and over-the-top dramatics that suit her powerhouse style. Her riveting performance is powerful. As an actress and singer. Bahati reached as many Olympian highs and lows in her show as she did in her life. At times it is shocking in its intensity. Other times it is funny.
Throughout, it is frantically paced as she emotes the manic side of her persona. Many of the vignettes are ultimately punctuated with a song. The tunes are good and hit the mark, be they disco, rock ballad, or blues in the night. A gospel rafter-raiser, “I Forgot,” closes the show on an optimistic note as she ultimately triumphs. Asking herself “Why me?,” she sums it up by saying, “The past does not equal the future.”
In the case of Wambui Bahati, sharing such personal psychological and emotional mazes in a cabaret setting and making it work so well puts the lady in a class by herself.
CABARET HOTLINE ONLINE
If any of you enjoyed Elaine Stritch's cabaret show on Broadway, I have two shows I think you would enjoy as well, going on right now here in NYC. They both feature very talented and funny ladies relating tales of their show business careers.
The first is at DON'T TELL MAMA (343 West 46th Street, NYC) ---written and performed by Wambui Bahati, called "Balancing Act." . . . I and my two guests were entranced, inspired and entertained by this one-hour "tell all." I urge you to catch this show if you can . . .
Congratulations on an outstanding success. Everyone in our group of 5 (including 3 psychiatrists) thought the performance was wonderful. Ms. Bahati struck a spectacular balance between educating and entertaining, in my judgment the highest purpose of theater. She has put her life in the service of others doing what she does best, and it works. I would recommend it to anyone.
Dr. Reifler is chairman of the Department of Psychiatry &
Behavioral Medicine at Wake Forest University School of Medicine
I can't begin to tell you how much people appreciated your performance at our USPRA Conference. You expertly combined your talent with a message of hope and possibilty. You are our conference theme -Recovery: Reaching New Heights - Thanks so much for touching many lives.
USPRA (US Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association)
Having had many bouts with depression in my own life, I was not looking forward to what I assumed was to be a dark and ominous experience with “DEPRESSION.” At various times since you first brought the play to my attention, I halfheartedly attempted to wriggle out of making the commitment to come.
Our friendship won out in the long run and I knew that my love and devotion to you and your tireless cause was worth far more to me than what I assumed would be an hour or two of discomfort.
Wow, was I ever wrong.
I was completely blown away by the whole experience. Not only was Balancing Act most entertaining, but hardly the gloom and doom thing that I had been dreading. It was full of fabulous music, marvelous acting and just plain old kick butt energy that filled the auditorium.
I left feeling uplifted in a way that I had not experienced in a long time. I loved Wambui’s upbeat performance, music and demeanor. Her inner fire was a light that set the stage ablaze and I felt captivated and uplifted by her.
Please thank Wambui for allowing me the privilege of attending her wonderful play. I also thank NAMI for having the courage and insight to offer such a meaningful opportunity to become more informed. It was an inspiring evening and one that I will not soon forget.
—Personal note to Mary Annecelli,
an organizer of NAMI Forsyth’s Winston-Salem production
“Balancing Act is powerful and funny and moving, and tells the story of bipolar mood disorder without prettying it up,” said Beth Melcher, executive director of NAMI of North Carolina. “Besides portraying the disorder so well, the story is a story anybody can relate to.”
Months of preparation and promotion culminated in a standing ovation following Wambui Bahati’s brilliant performance of “Balancing Act” at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville on Oct. 22.
The event was an annual fundraiser, and the benefits were many. The show placed NAMI Tennessee in the media limelight throughout the state. Wambui and our organization were featured on television, in newspapers and in radio announcements . . . Many consumers have taken time to tell us how much the show inspired and encouraged them. NAMI Tennessee thanks Wambui for sharing her story of recovery and renewal.
"My name is Lynn and I'm from Port Huron, Michigan.
We recently had Wambui Bahati come to Port Huron to do her show Balancing Act. It was absolutely amazing.
It far surpassed even our wildest expectations. It was fabulous, it was professional and it touched everyone in the audience.
It left us wishing we had booked her for two days because I think many people would have come to see her a second day - or word of mouth would have really expanded the audience the next day. We were very happy with the attendance. We had over 400 people.
Wambui and the musicians came back to our clubhouse and met with people, signed autographs and spoke to them personally. They were very personable.
It was just an all-around wonderful experience.
The performance was met with a standing ovation from the crowd.
We couldn't be happier."
- Lynn Vinson
Blue Water Clubhouse and Community Mental Health
of St. Clair County,
Port Huron, MI
A standing room only crowd converged on Asheville’s YMI to see Balancing Act, an impressive blend of rich vocalization and dramatization emphasizing an all-important message.
"Wowee!" "Fantastic!" "Needs to tour the country." "Brilliant production!"
These are just a few of the comments on feedback forms received from attendees.
—NAMI North Carolina
Wambui was incredible beyond my words. Thank you for allowing our affiliate, NAMI Forsyth County, the privilege of presenting Balancing Act and falling in love with Wambui.
NAMI Forsyth County
Four Hundred people packed the Wayne Community College Auditorium for “Balancing Act.” Ms. Bahati’s dynamic and moving performance elicited several rounds of applause, and the audience gave her a standing ovation.
Wayne Community College
I would like to thank you again for your terrific performance. I received several calls later in the week . . . they are raving about how enjoyable it was. 'Who was the woman, she was great!'.
Director of Development Stepping Stones,
"You did a terrific job and you could have heard a pin drop . . .YOU WERE WONDERFUL, and you provided a needed service to this community."
- S. Vann,
Guilford County Alliance for the Mentally Ill
"Thank you again for your presentation. So many folks want you to come back. We are seriously working on that.
- AMI Toledo
I thought Wambui Bahati's performance was incredible. She did an amazing job distinguishing between characters and keeping the performance humorous yet serious at the same time. She could make a character funny while still sending a serious message to her viewers . . .
I thought the performance was excellent. She got everybody into it from the beginning by starting in the audience and she keep everybody's attention . . .
Wambui Performs "I Am Domestic Violence" - Photo courtesy of Marc Golub Photography
I really enjoyed Wambui Bahati's performance. She had a very live approach in capturing the audience's attention. I liked how she played several character skits to show the different roles of domestic violence. I learned that Domestic Violence is everywhere and that if affects all walks of life . . .
The message I heard from her was that it is never too late to start living your life. She was a victim of domestic violence and finally broke free, had mental illnesses and was dealing with insecurities inside of herself. However, none of that got her down. She changed her name and started her life over basically and discovered herself. She wrote a book since then and even has written her own scripts such as I am Domestic Violence. She inspired me to look at life with a different view. Her words and her performance made me realize that life is short and you must live it while you can and live it for you.