As a variation on the old joke about lawyers, What do you call 5,000 performance art/spoken word artists at the bottom of the ocean? Answer: a good start. Most have slightly more talent than you'll find in the average grade-school skit. As a variation on the old joke about lawyers, What do you call 5,000 performance art/spoken word artists at the bottom of the ocean? Answer: a good start. Most have slightly more talent than you'll find in the average grade-school skit. However, the genre has found — especially in the terminally p.c. Twin Cities — a profitable market. Every year, the Minnesota Fringe Festival is full of them. Fortunately, the occasional true talent comes along, but for every Rhodessa Jones, e. g. bailey or Jovelyn Richards, there are scads of pretentious hacks who, hopping on a soapbox, make much ado about virtually nothing at all. And get paid.
David Daniels, like Jones, bailey and Richards, is a purveyor of the genuine artform that's being ripped off wholesale. He's a stubborn holdover from (or throwback to – take your pick) the day and age when pioneers like Miguel Piñero, The Last Poets and Sonja Sanchez, instead of giving lip-service to social change, blazed an oratory path to foment actual revolution through heightened consciousness.
Despite having his artistry completely ignored by Minneapolis' and St. Paul's mainstream media, the Twin Cities-based Rasta bard has not only held on over the years, but stands to definitively prevail on the strength of creative power and artistic integrity. For instance, last fall he swung a gig at Surcumcorda through word-of-mouth critical acclaim. German promoter Ras Schmidt caught it via webcast and flew Daniels to Frankfurt for three nights of club work. Before that, Daniels had established an emerging Midwest presence with Malcolm X Meet Peter Tosh (Cedar Cultural Center/Minneapolis), I Edgar Hoover (Mercury Cafe/Denver), Kolorada…A Western Tale (Bryant-Lake Bowl Theatre/Minneapolis, Media Center/Denver, Tower Theater/Salt Lake City) and Talkin' Roots Story (Java Joe's/Des Moines). Malcolm X Meet Peter Tosh, a fantasy in which icons cross paths to heed a common muse, moved Denver critic Leanne Schamp to extol, "I am…moved by the dynamics of the creation, intention and unfolding of [this production]. It exudes the spirit of reggae." I Edgar Hoover, a sardonic send-up taking a caustic look at the infamous FBI director screened on the "Word/Sound/Power" bill at InterMedia Arts. Kolorada…A Western Tale, a hemp-tinged take on America the red, white and hypocritical, played First Avenue and, produced by Nuyorican Poets Cafe, was a week-long hit at the 1997 New York International Fringe Festival.
Characterizing Daniel's work is a resonant (and sometimes thunderous) articulation of thoughtful prose spiced with the bone-dry wit of scathing commentary. He dreams up inventive figures, drawn straight from American life, to not only hold up a mirror image of society's base nature, but to artfully put that mirror image right in the audience's face. His strong following, basically today's remnant of the 1960's counter-culture, adore him for this: he's not afraid to take any social institution and routinely does so with power that truly compels. Far from raising hell for the pure sake of it, his aesthetic is knowledgeably steeped in Rastafarian sensibilities to, as he puts it, "raise cultural and community awareness of one humanity through live theatre and reggae music."
Those most original among us still have heroes. Daniels is greatly gratified to know that noted biographer Roger Steffens attests that this theatrical upstart follows in Bob Marley's footsteps. "Obviously, I take that as a high honor particularly given the fact of how close Steffens was to Marley." Does he feel obligated to emulate Marley or otherwise live up to Roger Steffens' words? "No," he succinctly states.
Not long ago, Daniels got it in his head to try his hand at the all but completely los