The Columbia Festival of the Arts stretched its more traditional boundaries to bring Black Lives Black Words on Saturday, February 20, 2016.
This was a dramatic reading of Black playwrights’ works from Chicago and London. Reginald Edmund reached out to Black playwrights in both cities to answer the question, “Do Black Lives Matter?” What he found was that on both sides of the pond felt they were often mistreated and mistrusted by the police, while still dealing with underlying prejudice at home.
Edmund limited each piece to no more than 15 minutes. Tonight, the Festival presented five One-Act plays. The performers were all from the local area, including one from Columbia.
The first Thanks for Coming, by Theresa Ikoko from London, was a monologue powerfully performed by Ayesha Gowie. The piece revolved around an actress auditioning for a role and ended up as anything but calm as she revealed her inner torments.
The second piece, For Colored Stone Gay Bois written in Chicago by Aaron Holand, showed the conflict gay black artists have. Should they fight for their art, their Black roots, or their gay rights? In this case the young man was in a mixed racial relationship, and he and his significant other had to deal with both reactions to their being gay and being an interracial couple. All five actors performed in this piece.
My personal favorite was Father’s Day. which was British, and written by Max K. A brother, played by Christopher Dillard, and sister, Terrie Henry, come to their father’s grave on the anniversary of his burial. The father and son were victims of gang prejudice, and police brutality and indifference. The two actors did a remarkable job dealing with their anger and fears.
The next play, Everybody Loves Big was by Reginald Edmund and also dealt with police brutality here in America. Matthew Boykin ably plays the 15 year-old street vendor who learns very young about the dark side of law enforcement.
The final piece, View of her Own Beauty, was written by Isaac Ssebandeke in London. The playwright here delved into black self-identification and pride when a young man in the park, insightfully portrayed by Eric Brooks, the Colombian of the group, and again, the talented Ayesha, begins talking to the young woman. The woman deals with the man’s rude remarks about her hair and stands up for her rights as a black woman, in a white and male-dominated society.
After the show, there was a talkback led by Managing Producer Reginald Edmund. The audience expressed hope that Edmund would continue to present these productions, and it seemed he plans to continue to do this around the country.
If you are able to go to see this production in another venue, it would be a great opportunity for you to hear these often suppressed voices.
If you missed the Winter Festival Winter Beyond the Blues, be sure to catch the Spring Festival–Viva la Vida.