January 25, 2006 News & Features » Cover Story


Slashtipher J. Coleman 

Playwright, performer

Returning in 2004 after a nearly 20-year adventure that took him to Alaska, Hawaii, England, Scotland and all over South America, Coleman is finally ready to settle down in Virginia — sort of. That is, when he's not on the U.S. college circuit or the Fringe Festival in New York and Edinburgh, or taking his one-man show, "The Neon Man and Me," on tour.

The show is a hilarious and moving eulogy to Mark Jamison, his best friend who died in 2004 while hanging neon. A benefit for the family Jamison left behind, the show explores bereavement and recovery. It's also "a vehicle that embraces all parts of myself," Coleman says. Sans props or costumes, there's nothing to obscure the beautiful punch of his story, one Coleman says he's too passionate about to grow bored with.

Coleman's CD, "Conversations With a Southern Wonder-Boy," and his broad collection of whimsical paintings are also full of poetry and strongly lyrical. And he's at work on his second book, "The Four Delicious Moons," a semiautobiographical novel about a boy who lives with his alcoholic biker dad and with the help of a drunken rabbi becomes a concert pianist as his ticket out of Chester. Also in the works is a DVD package with a 30-minute documentary about "The Neon Man and Me" and four music videos, one of which will use only Claymation.

Coleman's next performance, "Herbert Mermelstein's Big Jew Show," promises nothing less than a Yiddish three-ring circus, complete with a live band, a surprise guest and loads of laughs. Scheduled to premiere in the fall at the Virginia Holocaust Museum and the Weinstein Jewish Community Center, the "Big Jew Show" is inspired by the comedy of Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, Woody Allen and Mr. Bean. Coleman will explore the issues and questions that have emerged from the fated union of his French Jewish mother and Italian Catholic father.

After a year at work upholstering furniture for his family's North Side business, Tinker's, Coleman plans to join the ranks of the rare breed of artist who is able to quit his day job and live off the fruits of creative effort alone. He received money from the Virginia Commission for the Arts to conduct writing residencies in high schools, and he's teaching writing workshops at Comedy Alley, C3 and through the Henrico County Adult Education program. Coleman is a one-man band and a whirling dervish of creative resource. But don't blink as he spirals past — you wouldn't want to miss a thing.

Coleman will perform "The Neon Man and Me" at the Bainbridge Art Center Friday, March 10, and Saturday, March 11, at 7 p.m. Learn more at www.slashtipher.com.

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