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National Black Theatre Probes The Policing of Black Bodies

Emmet Till. Trayvon Martin. Sandra Bland. Kindra Chapman.  In 2015, the legacy of intolerance and discrimination against people of color continues its awful march, name after name and hashtag after hashtag. From the collective cry of the people, many movements have sprung forth to address the disparity in treatment of Black people by law enforcement officers. Each day we wait for the inevitable news that another young and unarmed person has been brutally killed by police forces who purport to protect and serve.  The questions and the outrage remain. Who exactly is being protected? Who is being served?

Black theatre has long lent its stage to the presentation of these issues. This year, Dr. Barbara Ann Teer’s National Black Theatre in Harlem dedicates its 47th season to “The Policing of the Black Body.”  The mainstage productions include a New York premiere of Dead and Breathing, written by Chisa Hutchinson and directed by Jonathan McCrory. The show, through surprising humor and persistent questioning, investigates morality, mortality and the intense tug-of-war between the right to die with dignity and the idea of life as a gift. Previews for the show begin October 28 and it runs through November 23, 2015.


Blood at the Root will also make its debut premiere in New York. The show was written by Dominique Morisseau and directed by Steve H Broadnax IIIin co-production with HiArts. Blood at the Root has begins previews on April 19  and will run through May 15, 2016. This show was inspired by the events surrounding the “Jena Six,” six black teenagers convicted in the beating of Justin Barker, a white student at Jena High School in Jena, Louisiana, on December 4, 2006. Playwright Dominique Morisseau uses this historical event as a platform to develop the fictitious story that explores the experiences of a group of high school students desperately trying to define themselves and navigate around those who identify themselves differently. When the desire for change erupts within them individually, they find themselves powerless and are thus forced to confront and engage “the other” in order to move their community forward. 

This year’s workshop production runs February 24 – 28, 2016. The play is Zoohouse and was written by Aurin Squire and directed by Ebony Noelle Golden. The play is set in a dystopic future in an asylum for the criminally insane. Zoohouse is a twisted tale about who has narrative authority, where we keep history, and whose lives matter.  The psychological and social, sexual and political, public and private fuel the inmates on a dark and surreal ride toward an explosive conclusion.

As we move forward into an uncertain future, we hope that this series of powerful and thought-provoking plays will help to amplify the simple truth that Black Lives Matter. The Black community will no longer passively accept the notion that anyone has the right to infringe upon our being, our existing freely in this country. To find out more information about the National Black Theatre and how to purchase tickets, click here. 

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