A life transformed by hip-hop: Evandalism opens the Fringe Theatre season

Henry RedCloud Andrade in Evandalism, Edmonton Fringe Theatre. Photo supplied.

By Liz Nicholls, 12thnight.ca

Henry Andrade (aka MC RedCloud) has a story. It’s personal, it’s dramatic, it’s hopeful, it crucially involves hip-hop.

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And, starting Friday on the Westbury stage, he’s sharing it from the stage in a one-man storytelling performance/show directed by the Fringe’s Murray Utas.   

In Evandalism, which opens the first Edmonton Fringe Theatre season in three years, RedCloud, born and raised in L.A., tells his own story of being a kid there, growing up Indigenous Mexican (Wixárika). 

Exuberant and personable in conversation (and onstage as we saw in an excerpt at the Fringe’s season launch), RedCloud explains that “I was a product of my environment.” And that environment had a lot to do with gangs. “My brothers, cousins, uncles, even my dad, were in and out of jail my whole life. Everybody in my family was, in one way or another, affiliated with gangs…. I don’t want to give away too much of the play (laughter), but I was slipping into the gang life with its own culture; I got initiated into a gang in the 6th grade.” 

“Music, dance, and especially hip-hop, really helped me take a big turn in my life,” says RedCloud. I really fell in love with this art. It helped carry me.” And so did the whole movement in which Indigenous people, including Chicanos and Mexicans, are “re-discovering pride in our culture, our roots and our ancestry, our language … taken away during colonization.”

“We’re a generation of people exploring our roots together!”

Henry Andrade (aka MC RedCloud) in Evandalism, Edmonton Fringe Theatre. Photo supplied.

Showbiz is a theme that runs through RedCloud’s history (which includes more recently roles in the TV series Yellowstone. Theatre has always attracted him: “A Midsummer’s Night Dream, Romeo and Juliet, Grease … we did ‘em all in high school. As I got older I started to get typecast as the gangster or thug.” 

It was in hip-hop and rapping that RedCloud really made his mark, bringing the themes of his Indigenous heritage to that field, with a whole discography and, as the Fringe program mentions, a former Guinness World Record for longest freestyle rap (at 18 hours one minute 14 seconds). 

Lightning Cloud Presents Bear Grease, at pêhonân, Edmonton Fringe 2021. Photo supplied.

The divergent paths in the RedCloud biography cross in Edmonton, where he lives with his wife, actor/ musician/ hip-hop MC Crystle Lightning (a Canadian Film Award winner for Trickster) who’s from the Enoch Cree First Nation.  And Evandalism isn’t the first time RedCloud and Edmonton Fringe have cohabited the same sentence. He and Lightning premiered their co-creation Bear Grease, an Indigenous version of the iconic musical/movie blockbuster that was instantly the Fringe’s hottest ticket in 2021. It’s been touring on both sides of the border ever since. And it’s back at the Fringe’s Westbury Theatre (“where it was born”) Dec. 8 to 11 after another Calgary run. 

Evandalism, as RedCloud describes, is the result of the workshops he takes to young people in schools and Indigenous communities “to share my story.” He credits the idea of the show to the Fringe’s Utas, a fomenter of new work who insisted “this story has got to be an actual performance.” 

It’s a story of transformation, and “there’s hope and happiness at the end…. I want people to see that I’m happy and I love life,” says RedCloud. When asked for the Fringe Theatre blog about what advice he’d give his younger self, he says “Oh, f*cking chill out. Chill out…. Everything’s going to be okay.”  

It’s a mantra of hope. “I beat the dragon and married the princess and got the castle!” 



Theatre: Edmonton Fringe Theatre

Created by and starring: Henry RedCloud Andrade

Directed by: Murray Utas

Where: Westbury Theatre, ATB Financial Arts Barn, 10330 84 Ave.

Running: Friday through Nov. 26

Tickets: fringetheatre.ca, or at the box office “offer what you will.”

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