COVID-19 UPDATE: Due to the coronavirus pandemic and ongoing shelter-in-place order, this year’s PlayGround Festival and this presentation has moved online!
A Juneteenth Theatre Justice Project
POLAR BEARS, BLACK BOYS & PRAIRIE FRINGED ORCHIDS by Vincent Terrell Durham
Directed by Peter J. Kuo
June 19 7pm PT via Zoom Live Stream
Admission: Free (reservations required)
In the American Theatre, we have long been guided by the principle that we can “change the world, one play at a time.” What if it was also one day at a time with the same play? On Friday, Juneteenth, (June 19th), theatre communities around the country will provide their response to the current moment – the civil uprising that has come as a reaction to the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and countless others before them – with simultaneous free readings of Vincent Terrell Durham’s bold new play, Polar Bears, Black Boys & Prairie Fringed Orchids. With a perfect blend of wit, pathos and humor, the play speaks to some of the most pressing subjects of our time – gentrification, white fragility, the Black Lives Matter movement, and police violence against Black bodies. The need for collective action – a commitment to speaking the truth and to begin dismantling systemic racism in our institutions – has never been greater and through Vincent’s words, our community can begin moving toward awareness and justice.
In the Bay Area alone, nearly 30 theatres have joined together to present a Zoom live stream presentation of the play, under the auspice of the PlayGround Zoom Fest and in partnership with SAG-AFTRA. Presenting theatres include: Lorraine Hansberry Theatre, PlayGround, Planet Earth Arts, American Conservatory Theater, Aurora Theatre Company, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Cal Shakes, Center Rep, Central Works, City Lights, Crowded Fire, Custom Made Theatre Company, Cutting Ball Theater, Livermore Shakespeare Festival, Marin Shakespeare Company, Marin Theatre Company, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Pear Theatre, Perspective Theatre, San Jose Stage, San Francisco Playhouse, San Francisco Shakespeare Festival, Santa Cruz County Actor’s Theatre, Santa Cruz Shakespeare, Silicon Valley Shakespeare, Shotgun Players, TheatreFIRST, and TheatreWorks. Additionally, theatres in nearly a dozen other regions including Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Houston, Seattle, St. Petersburg, San Diego, and Albany, New York are working on mounting readings with local casts.
About the Play
A liberal white couple open the doors of their renovated Harlem brownstone to host a cocktail party for a Black Lives Matter activist, his gay white lover, a sistah named Shemeka and the mother of a slain 12 year-old black boy. A night of cocktails and conversation spark emotional debates ranging from under-weight polar bears, Lana Turner, saving the planet, gentrification, racial identity and protecting the lives of black boys.
About the Playwright
Vincent Terrell Durham is a scriptwriter, author and poet who first honed his storytelling skills as a stand-up comic in comedy clubs across the country. His plays include The Fertile River, Vol. 1, A Post Racial America, and Polar Bears, Black Boys & Prairie Fringed Orchids, among others. Polar Bears, Black Boys & Prairie Fringed Orchids was co-commissioned and developed by PlayGround and Planet Earth Arts and is a 2019 NNPN National Showcase of New Plays finalist.
About the Juneteenth Theatre Justice Project
The Juneteenth Theatre Justice Project was launched by Aldo Billingslea to center Black theatre artists and new voices, address systemic racism in the theatre industry, and help raise much needed funds in support of Black Theatres around the country (a GoFundMe campaign has been launched). Theatres interested in staging their own Juneteenth reading of Vincent’s play can contact Aldo Billingslea at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Illustration credits: Black boy by Goulwen Reboux. Prairie Fringed Orchid by Ananda Heller. Polar Bear by Candy Witcher. Arrangement by Vincent Terrell Durham. Used with permission.
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