By Collin Kelley
Editor

Editor’s Note: Theatrical Outfit is remounting “Harabel”  Oct. 23 to Nov. 10, 2013. For information and tickets, visit theatricaloutfit.org. Beqo said she had worked to hone and tighten the production since its original two-day premiere back in January. She also plans to stage “Harabel” at Emory and is talking with organizers of the Women of the World Poetry Slam to showcase the production there in 2014.

By day, Jonida Beqo is a sought-after costume designer and wardrobe mistress for Atlanta’s theater companies. But this Friday and Saturday (Jan. 11-12), Beqo will transform into her alter-ego, Gypsee Yo, for the premiere of her one-woman show, “Harabel,” at Theatrical Outfit.

Gypsee Yo is no stranger to the poetry slam and spoken word scene here in Atlanta and around the country. Her resume as a poet and performer might come as a surprise to many in the theater world. Beqo’s poetry slam titles include  Southern Queen of Slam, Atlanta Slam Champion, National Poetry Slam and Women of the World Poetry Slam semi-finalist. She has toured internationally and has published three poetry collections in her native Albania, which is the starting point for “Harabel.”

Beqo escaped the war-torn Balkans when she was a teenager and came to live in Alabama,  but found that the American South had its own set of privileges and rules that took her by surprise. Her recollections of her violent departure from Albania during the war, her immigrant experience and learning to adapt to America form the arc of the play.

The dichotomy of Beqo’s life as an artist gives “Harabel” its entry point for the audience. “When the audience comes into the theater, they will see the stage set up to look like backstage, where I’m usually doing the costumes,” Beqo said. “I warn the audience that they are in the wrong place, but then it becomes a conversation. Each costume – a hat, a coat, a glove – becomes the catalyst for a poem or narrative in the show.”

While most poets stand behind a microphone, Beqo said the 90-minute show is intensely physical as she interacts with the costumes (which she designed herself, of course) and brings her memories to life for the audience. “We’ve been rehearsing until midnight,” Beqo said. “It’s been exhausting, but also exhilarating.”

“Harabel” comes on the heels of a particularly busy 2012 for Beqo. She designed costumes for eight different productions, including “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner ” for True Colors, “Wolves” for Actor’s Express and “Gifts of the Magi” for Theatrical Outfit. She also earned a Suzi Bass Award nomination for her costume work on 2011’s “In the Next Room, or, The Vibrator Play” from Synchronicity Theatre.

For tickets and information about “Harabel,” visit TheatricalOutfit.org.

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.