Reviewed by Guy Picot
L.A. company Lower Depths Theater Ensemble is excited to be presenting the Rolling World Premiere of Br’er Cotton by Tearrance Arvelle Chisholm from September 23 through October 29, 2017, at the Zephyr Theatre, Los Angeles.
Rolling World Premiere is an initiative by the National New Play Network, whereby companies from all over the country can sign up to produce new plays in succession, providing plays a bigger launch and more exposure than would be garnered from just one regional premiere. Chisholm is an MFA Playwriting graduate from the Catholic University of America and a current member of the Lila Acheson Wallace American Playwrights Program at Juilliard.
Director Gregg T. Daniel says the play, set in Lynchburg, Virginia, fulfills the company’s goals perfectly and couldn’t be more timely. It demonstrates that theater is now reclaiming its political voice as it dares to go where the mainstream media fear to tread. He says he hasn’t seen so much political playwriting since the sixties, and that this play in particular is bold in its form, as well as its content.
The former site of a thriving cotton mill is now an impoverished neighborhood. Deeply affected by all the recent killings of young black men like himself, Ruffrino, a 14 year old militant, incites riots at school and online. More and more at odds with his mother and grandfather, the boy’s anger grows beyond containment while the family home literally sinks into the cotton field, and no one seems to notice but him.
The play is set very firmly in the now, but shows how the past haunts the present, and the future. The fractured time-line and general non-naturalism present design and staging challenges which Daniel and his team are happy to accept. He was also pleased that the writer was present for the first week of rehearsal, another feature of the program.
The highly-respected Lower Depth Ensemble Theater generally produce one or two main shows a year, as well as presenting a regular reading series of new American works.
Br’er Cotton premiered first at Kitchen Dog Theatre in Dallas, TX, and the L.A production will be followed by one at the Cleveland Public Theater, Ohio.
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