Portland director tackles play on African genocide
Artists Rep production tackles prejudice, power and perspective
3/9/2016, 10:39 a.m.
A conversation around race and equity and its relation to true history past and present takes center stage as Artists Repertory Theater performs a Portland premier for an off-Broadway hit.
The professional theater group has produced an incendiary and challenging production about the first colonial genocide of the 20th Century in Africa, called “We Are Proud to Present a Presentation about the Herero of Namibia, Formerly Known as South West Africa, from the German Sudwestafrika, Between the Years 1884-1915.”
At the helm of the production opening this week is Director Kevin Jones of Portland, a member of Portland’s African American community who leads a multicultural cast on a play that sets out to improvise a story about the horrors of the lives lost in the genocide, but gets lost in the reality of their undertaking.
This unusual presentation with its humor and inevitable discomfort gripped theater hubs like New York, Chicago, London, Washington, D.C. and Seattle with its unique theatrical investigation of prejudice, power and perspective.
The playwright, Jackie Sibblies Drury is a young African-American woman who speaks and writes from her perspective and vantage point in a way that is very thoughtful and meaningful.
According to the playbill, there are scenes that are extremely funny and contemporary, also highly engaging and entertaining, some that are historically educational about colonialism and the genocide of the Herero, and laced throughout are deeply disturbing social observations and criticisms.
“Artists Rep has a very long history of doing tough plays and this one is definitely that,” said Nicole Lane, the theater’s marketing and public relations director.
Director Jones has a great deal to say about what the play is from his perspective.
“Jackie Sibblies Drury poses many questions for us to wrestle with and yet she offers very few answers,” Jones said. “One of the questions Drury’s provocative play asks is: What is our responsibility as artists to the stories that we tell and to the owners of those stories? Is it actually possible in America, in the 21st Century, to tell a story about distant genocide without the story being appropriated by a contemporary conversation about race? In this day and age when we engage with information on a sound byte level, what is our role in sifting through the rhetoric and extracting useful meaning?”
Preview performances began on Tuesday with the opening night performance on Saturday, March 12. The production runs through April 3 on the Morrison Stage, 1515 S.W. Morrison St. Regular admission is $48 and $25 for preview shows and students under 25. For tickets and more information, visit artistsrep.org or call 503-241-1278.