Amiri Baraka's Revolutionary Theater: Dutchman
Amiri Baraka’s explosive 1964 Obie-award winning play, Dutchman—a provocative exploration of the sinister ways in which black bodies and culture are fetishized— recounts a charged encounter between a mild-mannered black man, Clay (played by Larry Powell), and an aggressive, increasingly unhinged white woman, Lula (played by Rhian Rees) on the New York City Subway.
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.
Tickets to the reading are $10 in advance, $15 at the door.
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).
Larry Powell is a critically acclaimed, award-winning actor/writer/producer who has originated and played lead roles on great stages such as the Mark Taper Forum, Geffen Playhouse, San Francisco Playhouse, South Coast Rep, Lincoln Center, Playwrights Horizons, Labyrinth, Primary Stages, and the Humana Festival at Actors Theatre of Louisville among others. Also a lover of film he made his very own feature film, Mother’s Milk, and can be seen starring in the film The Browsing Effect. Larry graduated from Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Drama winning the Roth Levine Award for Acting his Senior Year.
Rhian Rees was born in Hampshire, UK and is an English Playwright and Actress. After graduating from the Royal Court Theatre Young Writers Programme (‘09) she moved to New York to study physical theatre. Rees made her acting debut in Confession of a Child of the Century which premiered in the Un Certain Regard section at Cannes Film Festival. Rees now resides in Los Angeles and has appeared in various short films, independent series, and features. She can be seen playing Dana Haines in the upcoming Blumhouse feature, Halloween 2018, directed by David Gorden Green.
Still from Dutchman (1966) by Anthony Harvey