Amiri Baraka's Revolutionary Theater: Dutchman
Dutchman was all but condemned during its initial debut in Los Angeles. The LAPD even tried to arrest the actors for some nuance of indecent exposure. Bringing this work back to an LA stage with dignity and reverence is only right, and hyperrelevent after a film like Get Out offered a more streamlined pulp iteration of some of Dutchman’s messages. It’s important to remember the ideologies that help us get out; ideologies Amiri’s work expresses explicitly, so that we don’t just rile ourselves into the running-in-circles panic that the US seems to be caught in today, immobilized by the mounting hysteria and awareness of our condition with no mode of release from it, no strategy. Our production of Dutchman will re-introduce Los Angeles to Amiri Baraka, a literary and cultural hero whose characters can teach us how to unravel some of the knots in ourselves. We will continue to re-imagine what it means to worship revolution, and what the immediacy of Revolutionary Theatre can help shift in the consciousness of a society addicted to dreams encrypted and deferred.
Our production of Amiri Baraka’s Dutchman will be staged as a read-through with jazz and sound archival accompaniment, exploring this work as a collectively improvised ensemble situated in and expanded by the tradition of the music Amiri loved the most.
Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones) was born in 1934 in the industrial city of Newark, New Jersey. After attending Howard University in Washington, D. C., he served in the United States Air Force. In the late fifties he settled in New York’s Greenwich Village where he was a central figure of that bohemian scene. He became nationally prominent in 1964, with the New York production of his Obie Award-winning play, Dutchman. After the death of Malcolm X he became a Black Nationalist, moving first to Harlem and then back home to Newark. In the mid-1970s, abandoning Cultural Nationalist, he became a Third World Marxist-Leninist. In 1999, after teaching for twenty years in the Department of Africana Studies at SUNY-Stony Brook, he retired. He stayed active and productive as an artist and intellectual until his death in 2014.
Harmony Holiday is a writer, dancer, archivist, myth scientist, and the author of Hollywood Forever (Fence Books, 2017), Go Find Your Father: A Famous Blues (Ricochet Editions, 2014) and Negro League Baseball (Fence Books, 2011). Her upcoming books include A Jazz Funeral for Uncle Tom (Birds LLC, 2019), and Maafa and Reparations (Fence Books, 2019).
Still from Dutchman (1966) by Anthony Harvey