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Company One presents ‘The Good Negro’ beginning Jan. 15

Posted By Nicholas Peterson On December 15, 2009 @ 7:47 am In News Wire | No Comments

Company One’s [1] production of The Good Negro by Tracey Scott Wilson, running January 15 – February 6 at the Boston Center for the Arts, brings the playwright’s most pivotal work-to-date to Boston. The play is a complex take on the always-daunting topic of race.

“This piece fits beautifully into this season,” comments Company One Artistic Director Shawn LaCount. “We get to re-explore history that we thought we knew. We get to experience it from all new perspectives.”

“I wanted to be accurate in terms of language and the way things were functioning in Alabama at the time. But the rest could be surrounded by fiction,” Wilson says. “People might make assumptions like who this or that character might be, but I don’t want them to get caught up; they should take that character for what it is and go along for the ride.”

These sentiments are echoed by the director of Company One’s production, Summer L. Williams, who points out, “A large part of what makes this piece so great is the element of surprise. It’s a topic that people have heard a lot about, maybe studied, but the way [Wilson] tells the story provides a fresh and unexpected perspective.”

“In creating The Good Negro, which was commissioned by the Public Theater in New York, Ms. Wilson sought to debunk some of the fictional aspects of the civil rights movement, including the saintliness of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Wilson, who, in writing the play struggled with the idea of fictionalizing such sacrosanct subject matter, eventually found an avenue through which she could humanize the epic nature of the material.

When audience members come to see The Good Negro, they may see something different from what they were expecting. Although the theme of the show is the American Civil Rights Movement, the piece employs fictionalized characters and plot to drive its messages home; a formula that Company One is hoping will make a big impact with Boston audiences.

“There’s a lot there,” says Summer L. Williams, the Elliot Norton Award winning Company One director who is at the helm of The Good Negro. “The Good Negro playwright, Tracey Scott Wilson] has fit a huge amount into a relatively small canvas,” says Williams. “I think audiences will really be moved by the piece.”

With Company One’s production, The Good Negro is now set to play in Boston, a city where the triumphs and struggles of the civil rights movement are still present in everyday life.

“This is where Martin Luther King came into his own,” says Summer L. Williams. “His years in Boston were pivotal to his work and to the persona we all came to know as Dr. King. Of course everyone remembers Birmingham,” she remarks, “but we shouldn’t forget that Boston also had an impact. It was right there in the middle of it.”

For the city marred by a messy racial history, Boston continues to struggle in identifying its place in the struggle for overcoming racism. Despite the population being a “majority minority,” recent reports have confirmed the fact that the area’s populations of color still experience racism on a regular basis. “Of course the racist acts like the ones we see in this play are largely a thing of the past,” says Williams, “but the tension is still there. The play reveals the human side of the struggle for equality, for identity,” she continues. “That is something that will never be just a part of history.”

Fran Coletti, of “Facing History and Ourselves”, agrees. “By exploring the complex and pivotal moments like the Civil Rights Movement, students make meaning of these events so they can better understand themselves, their communities and their world today,” Coletti points out. Facing History and Ourselves is an organization which, as Coletti explains, “engages students in questions of social justice and human rights by confronting the lessons of history.” Company One has formed a partnership with Facing History and both organizations hope to draw a large number of students to see The Good Negro. In discussing the partnership, Coletti remarks, “We are inspired to work with Company One – to bring such powerful art to our community.”

The Good Negro runs January 15 – February 6 at the Boston Center for the Arts. For more information, including tickets, please visit www.companyone.org. [2]

Compiled from the press release courtesy of Company One (website [1] | profile [3] | tag archive [4]).

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