THOUGHTS: An Octoroon at Berkeley Rep

Lance Gardner as BJJ

Lance Gardner as BJJ in the West Coast premiere of An Octoroon at Berkeley Rep.
Photo courtesy of Kevin Berne/Berkeley Repertory Theatre

As artists of color, we are accustomed to being categorized according to our perceived race. We’re not just artists, we’re Asian Actors, or Latinx Directors, or Black Playwrights. But what does it mean to be an “(insert ethnicity here) Artist” and will we ever be able to create work without everything being tied back to our race?

This is the question BJJ (Lance Gardener) asks when he walks onto a bare stage at the top of An Octoroon. He is a Black Playwright. It doesn’t matter what he writes about, theaters and their audiences will always bring it back to race. So, he tells us, he has adapted an old, once wildly popular melodrama, which, in turn, had been adapted by a white, Irish playwright from a novel. And he will be playing the lead role. In whiteface. Continue reading