Buy My Body and Call It a Ticket

Friday, Jun. 15 & Saturday, Jun. 16, 7/8:30 p.m., pay what you want
The Fruit, Durham

Earlier this year, in Buy My Soul and Call It Art, the first part of her performance trilogy, Monét Noelle Marshall began a conversation about the worth of black art. Last weekend and next, it continues at the Fruit with Buy My Body and Call It a Ticket, another interactive performance that plunges the audience right into the feelings, thoughts, and outcomes that many black artists face, in a way that had me questioning what came from reality and what was merely one of Marshall’s brilliant conceptions.

This series is meant to challenge a plethora of social issues revolving around entertainment and the creative process, and after the first part premiered at the Living Arts Collective, theatergoers were eagerly awaiting her next offering. I was geared up for another mind-warping interactive experience, but I quickly realized this was not just the same format regenerated in a new venue. Marshall utilized a completely new theatrical carnival to tackle another important issue in the world of entertainment: healthy body image.

When we enter the venue, Marshall allows us the freedom to roam through the carnival of her mind. Unlike Buy My Soul, in which we were shuffled through the experience as if we were touring an art exhibit, Buy My Body gives us the autonomy to explore on our own time. Different parts entice us to look closely at issues like weight, hair type, and self-healing. In true North Carolina State Fair fashion, I was asked to step on a scale and have my weight estimated. Nervous, because I am a few Bojangles french fries away from being in shape, I was surprised at how accurate the estimation was.

The show did not stop with the carnival. Marshall and her cast of local artists utilized the entirety of the venue. The evening was filled with emotional experiences representing all genders, sexual orientations, skin colors, and age ranges. I witnessed individuals tearing up in response to what Marshall delivered, in a very direct fashion, on the topic of body image. As a larger black man who swam competitively during my adolescent years, this artistic demonstration brought me to a place I had yet to face in my late twenties. If this is the only body that I have, the only body that I know, why am I allowing the perceptions of others to dictate how I look and feel about myself? Marshall’s art forces us to the realization that we are the only ones that can heal ourselves, and only if we decide to embrace our own beauty and individuality.