As the lights come on in Station North’s Motor House art space, a young black man sweeps shavings off a white tile floor. An older gentleman preps a client in his barber’s chair as local news plays on the television, featuring scenes from the unrest that occurred in Baltimore in 2015.
“Who’s getting their hair cut today?” the young man asks the crowd.
This opening scene is part of Fades & Fellowship, a traveling theatrical group based in Baltimore that highlights barbershops as places of conversation and community for African-American men.
“Barbershops are considered sanctuaries,” says creative director Darius Wilmore. “They are places where people can engage in open communication.” Adds executive producer LaMarr Shields, “As people of color, our history is really about sharing stories. . . . I’ve always wanted to amplify the voices of black men. What better way to do that than through the barbershop?”
Through poignant and provocative storytelling by regular castmates and local barbers, each show delves into a variety of issues, ranging from racism and homophobia to relationships and health. After the first Fades show at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum last July, the events have continued to garner diverse audiences, who can even participate and receive real haircuts on stage.
The founders hope to grow the show in the coming year by partnering with universities, visiting other cities, and continuing their work with local nonprofits. This month, catch them at the Lewis Museum on July 21 with Martin Luther King Jr.’s personal barber.
“We have so many issues that need to be addressed,” says Larry Lewis, a castmate and barber at Tight Image Barbershop in Mt. Vernon. “This production allows people to have a front row seat to what is going on.”