"To Be Black in America"
America’s dirty history of enslavement has been a subject of much dramatic interest lately, what with the big-screen dramas of 12 Years a Slave, Django Unchained, and Harriet, as well as such theatrical efforts as Brandon Jacobs-Jenkin’s An Octoroon (updated from a pre-Civil war play), Underground Railroad Game, Behind the Sheet, Amazing Grace, and Slave Play.
|Kareem M. Lucas. Photo: Paula Court.|
|Toni Ann DeNoble and Landon Woodson. Photo: Paula Court.|
|Telly Fowler. Photo: Maria Baranova.|
The work begins in the lobby, where you’re invited to check (meaning simply hang on a rack) your coat and anything else you don’t want to lug around, as recorded voices are heard talking about what the speakers understand blackness to mean. The lobby walls are filled with artfully arranged words on racial issues, with frame-like windows in which will be seen the faces of the founding fathers as portrayed by several of the actors, their faces half in whiteface, with half-black, half-white wigs.
|Eury German, Latra Wilson (front), Telly Fowler, Taylor Boyland. Photo: Paula Court.|
A Guide (Robert King), introducing himself as Jasper Sasparilla, “a magical mulatto,” appears, dressed in a red, conductor-like cap and jacket, to guide us, over the next two hours, through a maze of rooms, hallways, and spaces, each inch of which is covered with instructional materials and artifacts. We see videos of black history, including artistic performance; typewritten letters (with headphones on which they can be heard being read) documenting 19th and early 20th centuries relationships; a barber shop; and a tiny room memorializing hair braiding, with hair samples lining the walls.
|Love letters. Photo: Maria Baranova.|
|Toni Ann DeNoble, Langston Darby, Landon Woodson, Tabatha Gayle, Marcia Berry. Photo: Maria Baranova.|
|Hair braiding. Photo: Maria Baranova.|
|Obama and Trump Land. Photo: Maria Baranova.|
America is a lie
A clever story
A dream Built upon the foundation of genocide and enslavement.
|Kareem M. Lucas (center), Latra Wilson, Telly Fowler, Taylor Boyland, Eury German. Photo: Paula Court.|
HERE Arts Center
145 Sixth Avenue
Through November 24