a story about the road to wholeness
“I was the young, homeless boy getting clothes from the Salvation Army on N. Williams Avenue in the Winter, or getting a box of food with my sisters at the Sunshine Division. I showered at Matt Dishman locker rooms when we were homeless, washed my clothes at the laundromat on NE 15th (where Whole Foods currently is). I was the boy following my mom with a shopping cart of our belongings, collecting cans in St. Johns. When on Summer break from Sabin elementary school, I was the little boy waiting all morning for the free lunch at Irving Park (before rushing to Dawson park to get another free meal to share with my mom). This city is entrenched in my identity.”
Flower Joy will be one in a series of four thrilling live storytelling works. Written and performed by Vin Shambry, it follows his journey on the road to wholeness. Awakened by a leap of faith to see a therapist who practices a technique called EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), Vin was launched into his past and present as they intertwined and became all mixed up, in a desperate search for the attention and care that he needed. The works are woven together with multimedia vignettes with dance movement and the voices of his past, present, and future.
Telling personal stories of marginalized communities can create social change. Sharing these “counter-stories” can illuminate the realities of communities and individuals at the margins. It can also help expose, analyze, and challenge deeply-entrenched narratives and characterizations of privilege. Vin’s stories (in multiple artistic formats) are an untangling and exploration of how poverty, racism, and sexism intersected in his childhood. Against all odds, he achieved upper-middle class status, which puts him in the unique position of being a bridge across disparities, across the segregated economic landscape of Portland.
The goal of Flower Joy is to inspire audience members to connect with the “human-ness” of one another in our society by sharing personal stories of joy and heartache and shame and family. Perhaps the next time you encounter a homeless youth, a survivor of domestic violence, or a black teenage boy, you’ll remember Vin’s story and see them with curiosity as a whole person, much like yourself.
I am a nationally recognized actor with Broadway credits (Rent), multiple national tours, and international performing experiences, including the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. In that piece, I performed The Gun Show, a one-man show by local playwright E.M. Lewis about guns in rural Oregon after a sold-out run here. I’ve won awards for my work, including the Audelco Award in NYC for originating the play Black Man Rising, and Best Actor in a play (Superior Donuts), Best Actor in a Musical, and Best Ensemble at the Portland Drammy Awards. I’m honored to be an artist in residence at Artists Repertory Theater for the last several years. I also recently directed a hip-hop version of Shakespeare’s Othello for Portland Actors Conservatory.
Of more personal importance to me, I am a published writer whose story will appear in the Moth’s upcoming book (March 2019): Occasional Magic: True Stories about Defying the Impossible. After winning a story slam, I was invited by the Moth to perform my story to a sold-out crowd at the Arlene Schnitzer Hall. The Moth staff were so moved by my story of how being a homeless kid in the Portland rain affected my experience at Outdoor School that they flew me to Seattle to perform it again. In 2016 I was invited by Friends of Outdoor School to perform my story in Salem in support of measure 99, which passed. Recently, I was awarded a RACC grant to devise a theatrical performance of this story. Additionally, my performative, original writing was featured in April Baer’s “State of Wonder” on OPB.