Tuesday, October 20, 2015

About Time: "Every 28 Hours" Unites National and Local Theater Artists to Examine Ferguson and #blacklivesmatter

"About Time: "Every 28 Hours" Unites National and Local Theater Artists to Examine Ferguson and #blacklivesmatter"  By Eileen G'Sell, St. Louis Magazine

In October 2014, thousands gathered in downtown St. Louis from around the country to march peacefully in the spirit of “Ferguson October,” one of many ongoing demonstrations responding to the death of Mike Brown, Eric Garner, and other unarmed casualties at the hands of the police. One year later, similar momentum has drawn playwrights, producers, and directors from coast to coast for a different kind of St. Louis demonstration: theatre as direct civic engagement.

Titled Every 28 Hours—referring to the contested statistic that an African American is killed every 28 hours by a member of the police—a host of the country’s most celebrated playhouses are joining forces with local talent in a week-long collaboration culminating in a day of performance Saturday, October 24. Chief among these players are the nationally recognized Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF) and New York’s One-Minute-Play Festival (#1MPF), the nation’s largest and longest running grassroots theater festival company. During their week-long residency, participants will tour important area sites and collaborate with St. Louis playwrights, directors, and actors, to create 60 to 90 “one-minute plays” inspired by the exigency and complexity of the #blacklivesmatter movement.

“What we’re hoping to do in St. Louis is to give the country a chance to talk to itself,” says OSF associate producer Claudia Alick. “Some of the collaborators are coming from a pure theater space, some from a very pure activist space, and many are coming from a cross-section of each. Our project is informed by thoughtful leaders in activism, performance, civic leadership, and communications. The work is hard and inspiring and necessary. I’m really glad that the project is going to be birthed in Ferguson.”

Saturday’s premiere in North County promises to be a capital-letter Big Deal for artists and activists alike. #1MPF founder Dominic D’Andrea describes the “plays” as 60 to 90 “heartbeats or pulses” building into a larger narrative and conversation within the local and national community. Those in residency will be scripting and choreographing based on their days directly engaging a comprehensive St. Louis population. “We meet on Wednesday, write on Thursday, rehearse on Friday, and open on Saturday,” D’Andrea explains.

University of Missouri-St. Louis theater professor Jacqueline Thompson, who has teamed up with Alick and D’Andrea to make Every 28 Hours happen, emphasizes the project’s magnitude for the region. “I can’t think of any project in the last five years where this many people came from all over the country to do work like this—it speaks to the dire needs of our time.”

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