Posts Tagged African American

Oregon Shakespeare Festival – Ashland, Oregon


Every year Ashland, Oregon holds Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF) that lasts from mid-February to early November. It is an incredible experience for theater lovers. I visit every year with several friends in my book club. There are three stages in close proximity and eleven plays are produced during any given theater season. These are not only Shakespeare plays. In fact, this year, we did not watch any original Shakespeare play. My friends and I watched 4 plays in 4 days we spent there.  In addition to several plays going on simultaneously, the little town also has music festivals, bands, choir, other outdoor events, salsa dancing, poetry readings and more. Small town is beautiful with tons of unique shopping opportunities and incredible eateries with some of them offering seating by the riverside.

We drove from the Bay Area and spent a night at half-way point on easy 10 hour drive there. Next day we reached there early and saw one play at night and saw two more on the second day and then on the last day there we saw one play, and then started on our return journey. So we had a beautiful all girls road trip to and from the festival.

Here are the four plays we saw.

The Odyssey

Homer’s Odyssey is a timeless classic but it is complex and it’s not always easy to keep the characters in mind.  We attended pre-theater reading when we got a quick synopsis of the story. The play performed at open-air Allen Elizabethan Theatre was a treat of pomp and circumstance. After a decade long war, after the defeat of the Trojans by the Greeks, all surviving fighters reached home, but not Odysseus (Christopher Donahue).  Odysseus languishes on a faraway island, refuses offers of love from Calypso, battles angry Poseidon’s fury, and after 20 years reunites with his wife Penelope (Kate Hurster), who was battling suitors during his absence.. This story of Odysseus known as a “story of that man skilled in all ways of contending”, according to Bill Moyers, “changes the way we see our world and ourselves”. Kudos to Scenic Designer, Daniel Ostling and Costume Designer, Mara Bluemenfeld for incredible scenes and costumes.

Shakespeare in Love

There can’t be moviegoers who were not enthralled by the film, Shakespeare in Love. Beautiful story of young and innocent and yet deep and binding love written as a love letter to theater and theater people encompassed several contradictions beautifully. Along with cheap puns, there were Shakespearean dialogues. What’s not to love when you hear “My bounty is as boundless as the sea,. My love as deep. The more I give to thee,. The more I have, for both are infinite“? Then there was sexist politics of the time juxtaposed against the most powerful monarch in Tudor history.  William DeMeritt as Shakespeare is amazing.  Director, Christopher Liam Moore did an excellent job, beginning with exploration of how an artist’s mind may work when creating a brilliant work of art.

Unison

Developed and directed by Robert O’Hara, Unison brings the story and life of poet August Wilson and his poetry to stage, in a unique way.  August Wilson’s work depicts comic and tragic aspects of African-American experience and has inspired a huge group of poets. When meeting at his funeral, through the stories they share, a sense of reverence they have for August Wilson, reverberates on the stage.

At times the poetry is glorious
“You know you love me, I know you care Just shout whenever, and I’ll be there You are my love, you are my heart And we would never ever ever be apart Are we an item?”

At times the poetry is frightening
Red blood in the river, there’ll be red blood in the river”.

Off the Rails

Adapted from the work of playwright Randy Reinholz, Off the Rails tells the story of native Americans in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Such a story would be too tragic. But instead director Bill Rauch has adapted the story as a musical and infused it with romance and humor, while also depicting the indigenous resiliency among native Americans, in the face of attempted genocide. The story is also interspersed with Shakespearean quotes like “it is excellent to have a giant’s strength but it is tyrannous to use it like a giant”.  This was an excellent and heart rending play that makes one break out in laughter from time to time and yet leaves you with deep sadness.

 

 

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A Black Mother’s Cry (on tragic death of Trayvon Martin)


A black mother’s cry (on tragic death of Trayvon Martin)

The very first time when I kissed your head, held you in my arms
I held the world, when I closed my hands over your tiny little palms

When you were one, You were still so tiny, so helpless
I changed you, fed you, smothered you with kisses
Then you turned two, scribbled with crayons on walls
With sauce running down sticky fingers holding meatballs
You had so many questions, when you turned just three
Your little mind learning, grasping, not a moment free
At four, you asked about wind, water, fire, people and places
I smiled.  “Slow down, little one”, I said, but you had your ways

You were quite a charmer, at five, when you went to school
I dressed you in new green hoodie and you looked so cool
You were acing math at six, my dreams for you soared
Took you to field trips and museums, you were never bored
When you were seven, someone called you a name
I told you about Dr. King and being a different color is no shame
At eight, you learned more about the world and prejudices
Not quite so innocent, your confidence shaken with the biases

You seemed less keen to excel, I told myself, “he is only nine
“Does he need help,” I debated, “No,” I said, “he will be fine”
At ten, you got more friends and you seemed to be happier
Your friends gave you comfort, with them, you were chattier
At eleven, teachers expected less and you delivered a little less
My faith just as strong, I held hopes for you nevertheless
Almost a teen, at twelve, my faith unshaken, yet my fears grew
But you aced your test, you might have seen a ray of hope too

And then you were thirteen, your childhood left behind
Quite aware of how people thought, you had a keen mind
At fourteen, you became dark, tall, handsome gentleman
You stole many a hearts, yet part of the world only saw a black man
Less concerned with school and more about your safety, at fifteen
I taught you not math but how to blend and avoid being seen
At sixteen, I said a prayer, “Dear God, let him be treated right”
Only couple more years and he will grow out of awkwardness and shine bright

But you turned seventeen and your life ended just like that with a bullet
Because someone saw my black child with skittles in the pocket, as a threat!
As I held your broken body in my hands, my world shattered
My dreams lay broken along with your body, nothing mattered
My anguish so deep, as I sat still listening to the perpetrator’s story of self-defense
Slowly I learned, my child on whom my hopes were pinned, never had a chance!

Trayvon’s Story

On February 26, 2012, Trayvon Martin, a 17 year old African-American teenager, carrying a bottle of iced tea and a bag of skittles, was shot dead by George Zimmerman, a 28 year old neighborhood watch coordinator, who first followed Trayvon on suspicion that he “looked up to no good and looked like he was on drugs”, and later claimed that he was “attacked first by Trayvon and shot him in self-defense”.  While the jury is still in deliberation, what bags consideration is the fact that in our society, the spirit of little black children is often killed, many times, long before they get to late teens, an age when they experience the final assault in terms of how society perceives them to be dangerous, “up to no good”, on drugs, in gangs etc.  As a society, we are failing them in every way; not standing for their safety, for their education, for their freedom to wear what they choose without being looked at suspiciously, for their freedom to walk in neighborhoods, or shop, without being followed.  What child will have a smooth transition to teen years with so many odds stacked against them?  As if the odds stacked against being a black man are not enough, the fact that someone is even putting up a defense to get away with murder of an unarmed person with a bag of skittles, is mind-boggling on one hand, and heart-wrenching on the other.  (Just heard the verdict – that he did get away with murder).

In my opinion, jury failed to do the job of rendering justice by letting Zimmerman walk free.  As a society, we have to examine our own prejudices hidden in the deep recesses of our hearts.  I don’t think Trayvons have a fair chance at life to being with.  With or without Zimmermans, the lives of little Trayvons are doomed.  Parents may see little rays of hope but societal prejudices can be lethal.  And then we have to examine archaic laws and arming of lunatics!!  For a nation that considers itself a leader among developed nations, it’s a jungle out there (in little pockets) where mothers loose their sons just for wearing a hoodie, families loose their kids never to return back from a normal school day (as in Newtown shooting), representatives get shot at just for holding a meeting to listen to the voices of the people they represent (as in Giffords).  And in the end, justice is not available to all.  So very very sad!!  I want to send a little hug to bring small measure of comfort to Trayvon’s mother.

 

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