Flavorpill: Soho Rep’s “An Octoroon” Challenges Audience to Laugh at Slavery

Originally published on Flavorpill.

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Last season, Soho Rep’s An Octoroon by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins was one of those plays that everyone was talking about and not enough people got to see. Theater for a New Audience has brought it back, to their beautiful new Polonsky Shakespeare Center in Brooklyn, with a run that extended before it even opened.

An Octoroon has so much going for it, it’s not hard to understand why. The play is a deconstruction of an 1859 racist melodrama rethought through the viewpoint of a black playwright, BJJ (Austin Smith), who happens to share the initials of the actual author of the show.

The play begins with BJJ questioning that very label, and from then on An Octoroon leaves little unchallenged, including the very nature of reality versus fiction. Continue reading

Talkin’ Broadway: Book Reviews – The Great White Way: Race and the Broadway Musical by Warren Hoffman and Black Broadway: African Americans on the Great White Way by Stewart F. Lane

Originally published on TalkinBroadway.com.

The Great White WayIf you dive into Warren Hoffman’s The Great White Way: Race and the Broadway Musical expecting it to be a catalog of minorities on stage, you might want to take a second look at the title. Hoffman’s book does indeed cover shows like Show Boat and Flower Drum Song, which focus on the experience of minorities in this country, and it takes a look at all-black productions of traditionally white shows like Hello, Dolly! and Guys and Dolls. But Hoffman is quick to point out that an understanding of race and the Broadway musical can’t possibly be complete without an attempt to understand Whiteness on stage as well. Hoffman asks readers to consider not only what shows like West Side Story (which place white characters in opposition to characters of other races) might have to say about being white, but also to focus on shows like The Music Man and 42nd Street, which white audiences have typically seen as “not about race.” The Great White Way provides an enlightening experience with the potential to open the reader to radical reconsideration of classic and contemporary shows alike. Continue reading