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January 28th – February 12th
In June 2020, the collective We See You, White American Theater published an open letter that reverberated throughout the country. It led to long-overdue conversations about how our performing arts communities underserve its artists and audiences of color. At ACT, one core company member heard the rallying cry that grew stronger by the day, and the idea of History of Theatre: About, By, For, and Near was born.
History of Theatre, written by Reginald André Jackson (seen at ACT last season in Lynn Nottage’s lacerating, Pulitzer Prize-winning drama Sweat) and directed by the Hansberry Project’s Valerie Curtis-Newton (ArtsWest’s Sunset Baby, Seattle Rep’s Nina Simone: Four Women), reaches back in time, over two centuries in all, uncovering the lost stories of America’s unsung Black artists.
“It’s important to me that these stories be told,” said Jackson, “because as a society and an industry, we’re still dealing with cultural issues that are 200 years old.”
The ensemble show, which combines theatre, dance, and music, couldn’t come at a better time. “We’ve had wave upon wave, generation after generation of Black artists in the Northwest trying to carve out our place and our space in a predominantly white city,” explained Curtis-Newton. “And that makes what we do that much more difficult and that much more significant. I think that I’m most interested in people becoming truly aware of the contribution of Black theater artists to the American theater: a legacy that is writers, producers, directors, as well as actors.”
“My hope is that this play provides some enlightenment for audiences,” Jackson concluded. “For certain, I hope that people within this industry ask themselves, ‘Why didn’t I know this?‘ and motivates them to consider what can be done to effect change and grow the concept of what we can become.”
📸: Courtesy of ACT Theatre