The power and lyricism of Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Lorraine Hansberry (A RAISIN IN THE SUN) comes to life in the Actor's Co-Op production of TO BE YOUNG, GIFTED AND BLACK, currently onstage in their David Schall Theatre through March 17. Featured in the cast as Greyson Chadwick, Montelle Harvey, Bruce Ladd, Deborah Marlowe, Shea Scott, Elayn J. Taylor, Kimi Walker and J. Patrick Wise.
The show's director Andi Chapman notes "The challenge of working to realize this particular work was in attempting to encapsulate the life of an extraordinarily complex woman whose life was very tough in her youth, a young woman who thought she was not contributing enough, who ultimately died at the tender age of 34 in 1965, with so much left to be said. It is my hope that this series of scenes and monologues (adapted by Robert Nemiroff) begins to shed a bright light on the underlying scope of her passions."
And what a passionate view of life Hansbury had, rooted in the collective history of a people with a special vantage point of life where the human spirit has no color. She believed there was hope for the human race indeed; a vision that still reverberates today as we struggle for true equality for all people.
The Actor's Co-Op has done a marvelous job bringing Hansbury's vision to life with a multi-ethnic talented cast and an evocative multi-level set design by Edward E. Haynes, Jr., based on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. It is famous as the site of the Bloody Sunday conflict on March 7, 1965, when armed officers attacked peaceful civil rights demonstrators attempting to march to the state capital of Montgomery. Character tableaus are used throughout the show to great effect, thanks to the dynamic lighting design by Mark Svastics, and stunning costumes from the 60's and 70's by Wendell C. Carmichael hit the mark throughout the show.
Chapman's crisp direction allowed the multiple scenes to flow smoothly and quickly with actors effectively changing characters on the move between scenes, sometimes with just a change of posture or the addition of a piece of clothing. There are so many different characters who each display Hansbury's vision from Walter Lee Younger in "A Raisin in the Sun" to everyday people just trying to live their lives with dramatic passion. Especially noteworthy were two scenes played back-to-back with a Southern white man stated he wants to "Be a man and own slaves" to a young black slave's last moments with his woman before escaping to the North and a better life.
Also noteworthy was a scene with a modern woman trying to come to grips with traditional Ethiopian dance and culture which is invading her world. Guest artist Elayn J. Taylor brought me to tears during the funeral scene in which she stated, "He was shot by the cops. Makes no difference going to school." But Hansbury knew it made a difference and several scenes take place in classrooms with teachers sharing her vision of how necessary art is to human existence. This writer can only hope that her vision will continue to inspire all of us to follow our dreams and create a world where all people can live together in peace and equality.
TO BE YOUNG, GIFTED AND BLACK
Actor's Co-op David Schall Theatre, 1760 N. Gower, Hollywood
February 8 to March 17, Fri/Sat at 8pm, Sun at 2:30pm
Saturday matinees on February 16 amd March 16 at 2:30pm
Regular admission $30, Seniors $25, Students $20.
For reservations call (323) 462-8460 ext. 300 or online at www.actorsco-op.org
Bruce Ladd, Kimi Walker, Elayn J. Taylor and Shea Scott. All photos by Lindsay Schnebly
Bruce Ladd, Greyson Chadwick and Shea Scott
The cast celebrates Lorraine Hansbury's vision.
Kimi Walker, Bruce Ladd and J Patrick Wise in the Actors Co-op production of "To Be Young, Gifted and Black"
Bruce Ladd, J. Patrick Wise and Elayn J. Taylor