Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The revolution will be staged (not televised)

On Q Productions begins its fourth season at Spirit Square this September. When the company sprang up in fall 2009, it ended an 18-year stretch in which no black-themed company had sustained a full season of plays. Now it's so well-established it can offer a subscription package: Through July 31, anybody who buys an $88 season pass gets the second one for $44. You have to call 704-372-1000 or go to and use the password "revolution" to get the bargain. (The website has details.)

Why that word? Because the slogan for the fourth season is "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised. It'll be Live." And revolutionary some of these plays have been.

The season begins Sept. 14-29 with "Kiss My Black Angst," a pairing of one-acts that dropped jaws (especially white jaws) in the 1960s: Amiri Baraka's "Dutchman" and Adrienne Kennedy's "Funnyhouse of a Negro," in a program directed by On Q founder Quentin Talley. Baraka's play is about a white woman and younger black man who have a sexually charged meeting on a subway; Kennedy's drama traces the last hours of a young black woman troubled by her race and searching for identity.

Next comes Anna Deavere Smith's "Twilight: Los Angeles," a one-woman show about the Rodney King beating and the riots that followed the acquittal of L.A. police officers. (Hard to believe 20 years has passed since those riots.) That runs Nov. 23-Dec. 8. The season lightens a bit from Feb. 15-March 2 with "The Social Networth," Stacey Rose's satiric play-within-a-play about the way technology shapes (or misshapes) our lives.

The final production, which runs May 24-June 8, is a local premiere and a triumphant acquisition for the company: The Pulitzer-winning "Ruined," a drama by Lynn Nottage that shows how Congolese women coped with the civil war in their country. (It has been likened loosely to Bertolt Brecht's "Mother Courage.")

Though Charlotte's population approaches three-quarters of a million people, we haven't always been hospitable to culture outside the white mainstream. We tend to restrict it to annual outbursts of exoticism (such as Bon Odori) or marginalize it by paying it little attention: Does anyone ever hear about Indian superstars who command $125 a ticket with live shows here?

In the case of African-Americans, we often wake up grudgingly during Black History Month, then feel we've done our duty for the year. But this whole season is fresh and varied and demands that attention must be paid, to quote a character from another famous American play. I look forward to paying it.  


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