Friday, May 18, 2012

Awakening Indeed

Given the generally sparkling reviews for “Dessa Rose,” I was wondering whether folks would rise up in indignation after my not-always-positive ramblings about the musical a couple of days ago. In case anyone is holding back, I’m more than open to well-reasoned or at least articulate rebuttals to the things I said about the show. If I’ve missed points other people got, I’d love to be enlightened.

Kind of suddenly – or at least suddenly for me since I’ve been kind of out of the loop for a few weeks – spring is full of music in Richmond. At the beginning of 2012, we had “Patsy Cline” and hardly anything else musical-wise (“Stinky Cheese” notwithstanding). But now, “Church Basement Ladies” is still hanging on and three musicals opened over the course of the past 3 weeks. And Facebook is already rumbling about the beginning of rehearsals for “Spring Awakening” and talk of “Rocky Horror” is starting. And there’s this little thing SPARC is doing called “Live Art” – OK, I jest; it’s going to be huge – that’ll have its day in the sun in a couple of weeks. Tunes are flowing freely now from our stages – it’s a good time to see, and listen to, a show.

A few weeks ago, the eloquent John Porter talked about themes running through local productions. Personally, I’ve been noticing an interesting willingness so far this year for local companies to jump into the race discussion. This will move to a new level with Henley Street’s “Yellowman,” opening next week, but we’ve already had the subject put out there for consideration in “You Don’t Know Me,” “Scorched Earth,” “Dessa Rose,” and maybe even a little bit in “Topdog/Underdog.” I find this very intriguing. It’s been my thinking for years that Richmond could be a particularly potent location to bring the American conversation about race to new places. We have a diverse community in here – there are significant African-American, Latino, and Asian-American enclaves – but, in my own probably very limited view, there isn’t a whole lot of intermingling between these populations. Any time race is brought to the fore, certainly the potential for conflict and a rise in tension is possible. But particularly when art is the medium, I think the potential for insight and even revelation is great.

I’ll look forward to hearing what people say about “Yellowman.” And maybe, someday, I’ll be reading something in some national publication about the boldness of a Richmond artistic community willing to plumb the depths of Richmond’s tortured legacy when it comes to race.

1 comment:

Jacquie O. said...

Hi Dave. Thank you for talking a little bit here about Yellowman. This is the show I have been the most excited about all year. For those who may not know about this play, it was a finalist for the 2002 Pulitzer Prize, and centers on the issue of colorism within race and how it manifests through our social, familial and religious relationships. It is also a play about the strength and resilience of love - something that is understood among all races.

I think Paul Nicholas, the director of this play says it best in his directors notes: “If an artist is lucky, maybe once in their career they will get an opportunity to work on a piece of art that is so unique and so unforgettable that it will impact their lives and affect their work forever. If a consumer of art is lucky, maybe once in their life they will get an opportunity to experience a piece of art that is so provocative and so engaging that it will move them and inspire them for years. I know this play will at the very least provoke you to lengthy discussions and debate, I hope more positive than negative. And I hope that our production will let the story of Alma & Eugene live on in your memory for a long, long time.”

We will be holding a series of talk back discussions at the conclusion of every performance with prominent leaders in the African American community, as well as the Richmond arts community. We have some wonderful people lined up already.

On a personal (and perhaps sappy note), I just love the amazing BRAVE plays that the Richmond theatre community continues to produce…and hope that everyone who loves the arts will joyfully support the theatres that want to bring them to us.