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Hands Down, “Hands Up” Was a Compelling Experience for Both Cast and Audience

ArtsCenter Stage and Common Ground Theatre presented "Hands Up: 6 Playwrights, 6 Testaments," monologues by Dennis Allen, Idris Goodwin, Glenn Gordon, Eric Holmes, Nathan James, and Nathan Yungerberg, on Feb. 5-7 at CGT in Durham

ArtsCenter Stage and Common Ground Theatre presented “Hands Up: 6 Playwrights, 6 Testaments,” monologues by Dennis Allen, Idris Goodwin, Glenn Gordon, Eric Holmes, Nathan James, and Nathan Yungerberg, on Feb. 5-7 at CGT in Durham

Hands Up: 6 Playwrights, 6 Testaments, first produced in November of 2014 and presented locally on Feb. 5-7 by ArtsCenter Stage and Common Ground Theatre, is precisely what the title says: six independent monologues written by Nathan James, Nathan Yungerberg, Idris Goodwin, Glenn Gordon, Eric Holmes, and Dennis Allen II. It was commissioned by the New Black Fest at the City University of New York Graduate Center, as a follow-up to a program that had been produced the previous year after the Trayvon Martin incident.

Hands Up revolves around the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. It was performed in the Common Ground Theatre last Thursday, Friday, and Saturday as a collaboration of ArtsCenter Stage and Common Ground Theatre, with the support of MOJOAA Performing Arts Company and in conjunction with the Ladies of the Triangle Theatre. It should have run another week or two.

On Friday night, the audience was invited to join the cast for an open discussion of what had just occurred. (We consisted of people of a variety of races, ages and genders.) The discussion period was almost as gripping as the actual presentation.

The show opened with “Superiority Fantasy,” written by Nathan James and read by Kenneth “Sir” Lampkin. It is a riff on the difference between Caucasians and whites, a difference many whites will find themselves uncomfortably resonating to. The hard question of how far the country has come and how far it still has to go is powerfully presented here.

“Holes in My Identity” by Nathan Yungerberg calls for “a light-skinned black man,” and deals with the problems of not being black enough or having the appropriate black experiences to “qualify” as a black man, and with the feelings that whites tend to be “dismissive” of the problems that people of color experience. It is read by Marcus Zollicoffer.

“They Shootin! Or I Ain’t Neva Scared . . .” by Idris Goodwin was read by poet CJ Suitt, who captures beautifully the poetry of the piece, the rhythms, lilts and dramas, the emotions, fears, and quandaries of wishing to be in a country where it doesn’t always have to be about race.

Glenn Gordon’s “Abortion” is about lessons in life a father could tell his son…. It was read with such exquisite, quiet passion by Jordan Marshall that it stirred deeply into the most sacred parts of us.

“Walking Next to Michael Brown” (Confessions of a Light-Skinned Half-Breed) by Eric Holmes is a wrenching fantasy that makes much of the word “miscommunication” using humorously stilted language, sly imagery, and ironic self deprecation about mixed heritage. Marcus Zollicoffer’s take on the work is wry, dry and witty.

The final offering of the evening, “How I Feel” by Dennis Allen II, seriously tested the concept of audience participation for the entire monologue, “to be uncomfortable” with the actor, Justin Peoples, whose warmth encourages us to embrace that discomfort with endurance. It’s the perfect ending of this discomfiting yet unifying dramatic experience.

This is a work that is truly built for audiences of white people as well as people of color, involving us rather than simply iterating history.

SECOND OPINION: Feb. 4th Durham, NC Herald-Sun preview by Cliff Bellamy: http://www.heraldsun.com/lifestyles/x681772211/Ferguson-response-Community-actors-take-to-stage (Note: You must subscribe to read this article); and Feb. 10th Durham, NC Indy Week preview by Brian Howe: http://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/hands-up-6-playwrights-6-testaments-holds-a-space-for-hard-discussions-about-race-and-police-brutality/Content?oid=4331027.

HANDS UP: 6 PLAYWRIGHTS, 6 TESTAMENTS, monologues by Dennis Allen, Idris Goodwin, Glenn Gordon, Eric Holmes, Nathan James, and Nathan Yungerberg (ArtsCenter Stage and Common Ground Theatre, with the support of MOJOAA Performing Arts Company and in conjunction with the Ladies of the Triangle Theatre, Feb. 5-7 at Common Ground Theatre in Durham, NC, produced in association with the New Black Fest).

SHOW: http://www.cgtheatre.com/events and https://www.facebook.com/events/1563361583911808/.

PRESENTERS:

ArtsCenter Stage: http://www.artscenterlive.org/artscenter-stage/.

Common Ground Theatre: http://www.cgtheatre.com/, https://www.facebook.com/cgtheatre, and https://twitter.com/CGTheatre919.

VENUE: http://www.cgtheatre.com/.

OTHER LINKS:

Hands Up: 6 Playwrights, 6 Testaments (2014 play): http://www.thenewblackfest.org/#!hands-up-6-playwrights-6-testaments/cu5o (official web page)

MOJOAA Performing Arts Company: http://www.mojoaa.org/ (official website) and https://www.facebook.com/MOJOAAPAC (Facebook page).

Ladies of the Triangle Theatre: http://www.ladiesoftriangletheatre.org/ (official website) and https://www.facebook.com/LadiesOfTriangleTheatre (Facebook page).

New Black Fest: http://www.thenewblackfest.org/ (official website).

[RUN HAS CONCLUDED.]

EDITOR’S NOTE:

Martha Keravuori is a life-long theater artist — an actress, director, and stage manager — in North Carolina, around the country, and overseas. She has a theater degree from UNC-Greensboro, and has been active in the arts in Raleigh for the past 40 years. Martha is the retired executive director of the North Carolina Theatre Conference. Chuck Galle returned to Raleigh last year after a 17-year absence. He was active in community theater for many years, and directed the troupe of maximum-security inmates at Raleigh’s Central Prison known as the Central Prison Players. In New England, he performed on stage, on TV, and in films. He is the author of Stories I Never Told My Daughter — An Odyssey, which can be ordered on his website: http://www.chuckgalle.com/. Chuck Galle and Martha Keravuori review theater for Boom! Magazine of Cary. Click here to read more of their reviews for Boom! Magazine and here to read more of their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.

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