May Day Parade - Tooting a Horn for Wayne Harris

May Day

Close your eyes for a moment. Imagine that you are sitting on a sidewalk. It is hot out and a parade is passing you by. A marching band approaches and you hear this noise:

Thrrrat-a-tat-tat thrrrat-a-tat-tat thrrrat-a-tat-tat!

Bing-bing-badda-rom bim-bam boom-biddity-biddity-bop!

Thrrrat-a-tat-tat thrrrat-a-tat-tat thrrrat-a-tat-tat!


This was the opening to May Day Parade. I had no idea what to expect from this show. I hadn't read anything about Wayne Harris before I sat down in the second row of his opening night at the Vancouver Fringe and I certainly had no idea it was a solo performance. I was expecting a musical performance with a line of people belting out music on tubas, clarinets, and trombones.

What I got instead surprised me. I was taken back to the early 1970s (okay, I was born in 1973) and I was treated to the story of a young boy growing up in St. Louis. The story follows an eight year-old Wayne who just wants to be in a marching band. His performance is touching, meaningful, and features an array of distinct characters: his mother, father, cousin, siblings, and even his grandmother. Wayne provides the voices and body language for each character with solid conviction. It is obvious he loves the characters and is dedicated to maintaining their integrity. His striking portrayal of an art form not popular in Canada is a unique experience for Vancouver theatregoers.

Now that I am thinking about it, I want to relive that moment of surprise when I sat down in the theatre:

"Just the sight of them big butt girls in short skirts doing the "dirty dog" down Newstead Blvd. put the crowd into a frenzy... I mean, folks were following the band down the street. Ain’t seen nothing like it before or since..."

If you miss May Day Parade, you can read more about Wayne Harris here and over here. If you're in the San Francisco area during October, you can see him at The Marsh.

You can find more about his show at the Fringe here and join in the debate.

By Shane Birley