Dael Orlandersmith will be bringing her provocative work Black ‘n Blue Boys/Broken Men to Reston’s CenterStage for its DC area premiere. It is for one performance only, on Friday, November 22, 2013. It is an intense one-actor work that aims to disrupt a silence about male victims-survivors of abuse; including their unexpected adult aggressors.
Pulitzer Prize finalist and Obie Award recipient Orlandersmith has had previous theatrical links in the DC area. Her Stoop Stories was produced at DC’s Studio Theatre in 2009. Rep Stage at Howard Community College produced Yellowman in 2012, a Pulitzer Prize finalist and Drama Desk Award nominee for Outstanding Play and Outstanding Actress in a Play in 2002. She received an Off-Broadway Obie Award in 1995 for Beauty’s Daughter.
In Black N Blue Boys/Broken Men, Orlandersmith transforms herself into numerous male characters in a series of challenging journeys. She is a story-teller depicting boys and men across a wide variety of ages, races and income levels. Forget any predetermined stereotypes; there are no stereotypes. This is isn’t about far-away others. It isn’t observing from a safe distance.
In a recent telephone conversation, Orlandersmith spoke of how she got from her early work as a social worker in New York City to writing Black ‘n Blue Boys/Broken Men. With her warm, vigorous voice, Orlandersmith chatted with compelling authority. She was hauntingly clear and riveting. She is determined to have us “not hide from what we often choose to ignore, and we don’t often talk about.”
When asked how her early career work as a New York City social worker informed Black ‘n Blue Boys/Broken Men, Orlandersmith mentioned she was interested in “gender issues, human nature and people stuff.” In her 20’s she had worked as a social worker in a New York City youth emergency shelter.
She learned that “guys were not always the perpetrators of the abuse, they were not always the predators. There were mothers, aunts, older women mentioned by the boys.” At that time, it was not easy for people to believe or accept that a woman could be a sexual abuse perpetrator explained Orlandersmith. She mentioned how the boys she saw at the shelter felt “betrayed” by those who abused them.
What can audiences expect from Black ‘n Blue Boys/Broken Men? When asked about the tough and uncomfortable subject , Orlandersmith noted that she wanted “to chip away at the overwhelming silence and the stigma surrounding abuse. Society may not always respond or know how to react to a male being abused.” She pondered out-loud “Why is that?”
Orlandersmith wants audiences to understand that “abuse knows no racial, gender or economic boundaries.” At previous performances, some audiences members have broken down and cried. It is not easy to continue when they do. When she is character on stage, she gives herself “permission to flinch…I give the audience permission to flinch too.”
Black ‘n Blue Boys/Broken Men
One night: Nov 22 at 8pm
Reston Community Center
2310 Colts Neck Road
Hunters Woods Center
Reston, VA. 20191.
Tickets: $20 – $40
Details and Tickets
She first heard “Light My Fire”sung by Jose Feliciano; then she was introduced to the original, long version by Jim Morrison and The Doors. She was smitten. And then the connection to what is next for Orlandersmith came.
Orlandersmith is working with Berkeley Rep and the LA Center Theater Group. Inspired by her own visit to Paris’ famed Père Lachaise Cemetery, the final resting place of such celebrated artists as Marcel Proust, Richard Wright, and the Doors Jim Morrison, she is creating a play called Forever.
She will explore how strong connections develop with people known only from afar. For some people the strong connection lead to pilgrimages to a favorite artists’ gravesides to leave personal objects and mementoes. How does this happen? What does it mean? Surprises will await us as Orlandersmith continues her work and work-shopping the play.
As the call concluded, Orlandersmith reminded your writer that “it is important to take chances and take risks in the theater.” She is an artist using her artistic talents to push boundaries. She hopes the theater continues to be a place where a “diversity of subject matter” will be address and “a broad palette will be presented to audiences.”
Black ‘n Blue Boys/Broken Men was developed as a co-commission between the Goodman Theater in Chicago, and Berkeley Repertory Theatre in San Francisco. Here is a look at Ms. Orlandersmith’s performance at the Goodman.