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 …
Cast members in the world premiere of It Can’t Happen Here at Berkeley Rep. Seated: Anna Ishida and Tom Nelis. Standing, left to right: Gerardo Rodriguez, Gabriel Montoya, William Thomas Hodgson, Deidrie Henry, Scott Coopwood, Will Rogers, Alexander Lydon, Carolina Sanchez, Mark Kenneth Smaltz, and Sharon Lockwood. Photo credit: Kevin Berne/Berkeley Repertory Theatre
It Can’t Happen Here was written in a United States still reeling from the Great Depression. Fascism was on the rise in Europe, and there were fears that it would cross the Atlantic.
Senator Huey Long of Louisiana had broken with his party– as well as President Roosevelt– over the New Deal, and he was poised to run as a third party candidate with the support of a fiery, anti-Semitic radio personality, Father Charles Coughlin. Author Sinclair Lewis and his wife Dorothy Thompson, a political reporter, were among those concerned about a possible dictatorship should Roosevelt lose. And thus was born the book that was then adapted into a play. Continue reading …
Award-winning playwright, actor, and performer John Leguizamo in the world premiere of Latin History for Morons at Berkeley Rep. Photo courtesy of Kevin Berne/Berkeley Repertory Theatre
John Leguizamo opens his new one-man show with a bit about his son getting bullied at his middle school. The bully comes from a long line of cops and veterans, or, as he puts it, “heroes.” To boost his son’s spirits and maybe his social standing, and because, as it turns out, his son actually has to write a paper about the subject to graduate 8th grade, Leguizamo decides to find a Latin American hero for his son to be proud of.
(l to r) Tyrone Mitchell Henderson (Lucien) and Tim Kang (Ray) in Julia Cho’s Aubergine at Berkeley Rep. Photo courtesy of kevinberne.com
aubergine opens with a single character, Diane (Safiya Fredericks), on a bare stage. Her appearance, and her monologue, could represent the next two hours: lean, contemplative, and full of food and familial relationships.
Ray (Tim Kang) is a chef whose relationship with his immigrant father (Sab Shimono) could be described as strained at best. But now his father is dying, and Ray is his primary caregiver.
(l to r) Bernard White (Amir), Nisi Sturgis (Emily), Zakiya Young (Jory), and J. Anthony Crane (Isaac) in Ayad Akhtar’s Disgraced, an engrossing and combustible drama that probes the complexity of identity, at Berkeley Rep. Photo credit: Liz Lauren
It seems Pakistani-American Amir Kapoor (Bernard White) is living the American Dream. He has an Upper East Side apartment complete with a balcony; a beautiful, blonde, artist wife Emily (Nisi Sturgis); and he is poised to make partner at his corporate law firm. But one New York Times story, and an explosive dinner party with his co-worker Jory (Zakiya Young) and her husband Isaac (J. Anthony Crane) threatens to shatter everything that he has worked for.
Pharus (Jelani Alladin), Junior (Rotimi Agbabiaka), David (Forest Van Dyke), Bobby (Dimitri Woods) and AJ (Jaysen Wright) performing. Photo credit: Kevin Berne
It seems fitting to see a play that deals homosexuality on the day the US Supreme Court ruled in favor of gay marriage. Like Loving v. Virginia almost a half-century ago, Obergefell v. Hodge is poised to change history.
Tarell Alvin McCraney originally debuted Choir Boy in September 2012, but with the Supreme Court decision and the recent attacks on African-American congregations in the South, it feels like it was written specifically for the audience of June 2015.
L to R: White Man (Lucas Hatton), Sarah (Megan Trout), Another Black Man (Rotimi Agbabiaka) and Black Man (David Moore) illustrate the history of the Herero under German colonial rule. Credit: Cheshire Isaacs
It was only last month that I was watching a play set in India in the 1930s written by a white Brit and directed by a white American. This makes We Are Proud to Present… all the more timely.