The Black and Brown Theater of Detroit will give a staged reading of “Lysistrata” with a discussion with the audience after the show Friday, April 12, from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. in the Savage Arena Joe Grogan Room.
The free, public event is sponsored by the Program in Law and Social Thought; the School for Interdisciplinary Studies; the Inside-Prison Exchange Program; the Jesup Scott College of Honors; the Office for Multicultural Student Success; and the Department of Political Science.
Dr. Renee Heberle, professor of political science and co-director of the Program in Law and Social Thought, hopes students, faculty and staff will join in this opportunity to engage with performers who are re-creating the classics of Western theater in the voices of people of color.
“The work done by the Black and Brown Theater bring contemporary questions about social justice to the interpretation of these works,” Heberle said. “Ideas we rarely thought of as relevant to understanding and learning from the classics of Western drama are brought to the surface.”
Black and Brown Theatre’s Classics in Color Series takes well-known stories and incorporates a cast composed entirely of people of color. The series aims to enable people of color and students of color to see themselves in the classic narratives that they were exposed to in the classroom setting. The casting of these shows encourages theater directors to rethink how they cast plays.
“When you see Black and Brown present ‘Frankenstein’ or Black and Brown present ‘Scarlet Letter,’ you know it is something different, it’s something great,” said Jonathan Curry, actor and Black and Brown Theatre board member. “When we see people of color play kings and queens on stage, our communities can see themselves as such and people outside of our communities can see us in a new light.“Classics in Color has been a way for actors like myself to access new worlds and different variations on the English language, which creates empathy and understanding for us as actors and for the audience as well.”
“The performance of ‘Lysistrata,’ a classic Greek comedy about war and sex, is entirely relevant to the contemporary moment in which we are living,” Heberle said. “The staged reading and talk-back will give us the time and space to reflect on what exactly it means to have a voice in our noisy political environment and what it might take to really be heard on issues of social justice that impact the public good.”
“Classics in Color is important because it creates access into the theatrical canon, a place that rarely sees people of color as significant figures in classical stories,” said Amber Nicole Price, actress, director and Black and Brown Theatre board member. “It expands representation from beyond the conversations of the present, and allows space for diversity in our history.”
Following the reading, audience members will be able to share their reactions to the text and the ways in which they can connect the story.
“Sometimes with classics plays, students and community members can both ask the question, ‘Why does this matter to me?’” said Emilio Rodriguez, Black and Brown Theatre artistic director. “But when they see the story told by people who look like them, they are able to hear it in new ways, which foster discussions and reflections that would have otherwise been dormant.”