We need to talk about AN OCTOROON.
The New York Times called Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ play “this decade’s most eloquent theatrical statement on race in America.” If you look up the word eloquent you’ll find synonyms like persuasive, powerful, potent, vivid, articulate, and expressive. All these words describe AN OCTOROON.
America has a hard time talking about race. Thanks to cell phones, security cameras, and immediate access to video via social media and 24-hour news, our country is currently being forced to have a conversation about racial justice. Our nation’s bigotry and violence, both past and present, is seeping to the surface of our collective consciousness. The reverberations of America in 1859 (the year Dion Boucicault’s THE OCTOROON opened) continue to rattle the country today. Institutional racism lies hidden in policy and practice, while xenophobia and prejudice continuously pour out on the surface of our political landscape. Everyone’s angry. Everyone’s hurting. Everyone’s asking the question “How do we move forward?”
Theatre allows us to talk back to history and to understand the past by trying it on. It provides shared experiences that help us discuss both the things that make us all human as well as the different perspectives that make us unique as individuals. Theatre provokes conversations that enable our community to take steps towards understanding.
AN OCTOROON makes us face our history, places it in a modern context, and shakes things up, forcing audiences to see, hear, think, feel, and ultimately to engage in dialogue that most would be much more comfortable not having. But we must have these conversations. Lives are at stake.
At Dobama, our mandate is to generate rousing conversations sparked by provocative theatre. Theatre must bring our community together and promote growth and understanding. We must do all we can to combat fear, prejudice, and discrimination.
This is a play about America. Everyone’s welcome. Everyone’s equal. Let’s talk.
With Love and Respect,