Thoughts of a Colored Man by young poet/playwright Keenan Scott II masterfully tells nearly every part of the experience of being a Black Male in America today. The tagline “One Theme: Seven Variations” is quite accurate as this body of work depicts the emotions not often articulated in public: Wisdom, Passion, Depression, Lust, Happiness, Love and Anger.
The stories of a person of color immigrating to America to make it, the nuances of barbershop conversations (maybe not ones you might expect), classism/gentrification, sexuality, incarceration, socioeconomic prejudices from each end of the spectrum, relationships, parenthood. I was very impressed the angle wasn’t political but objectively covered nearly everything that could affect a Black man’s psyche: being judged, judging and the actions affecting people close to them.
As someone on the artistic team stated, she’d “bet $100 any Black man could see some aspect of himself in this play (if she was a betting person)”.
As an American born male of African descent…I’d say if she placed that bet…she’d be a rich woman.
Three days after the Sunday matinee at Baltimore Center Stage, I received an unexpected email. I was happy to learn there was a cast discussion at the Reginald Lewis Museum Wednesday afternoon. The actors stated they felt the energy of the Baltimore audience more than their previous audiences.
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The poetic nature of much of the dialogue is reminiscent of a male version of the choreopoem, for colored girls who have considered suicide/ when the rainbow is enuf by Ntozake Shange. Keenan Scott II said this comparison wasn’t uncommon. In his words, Thoughts of a Colored Man is not a companion piece or a response to for colored girls, but he was inspired by Shange’s work of being one of the first (modern-day) plays incorporating poetry into theatre (it was first produced in the 70’s).
Attending the show on Sunday, I’d say the audience appeared to enjoy themselves, but I wonder what each person gleaned from Scott’s artistic offering and if there could be any social change. It was difficult to gauge because I believe some reactions were suppressed in the subtle subconscious paranoia of how one ethnicity might judge the other. I think if the ethnic contrast were different (not as balanced), an audience of mostly Black people may produce a “call and response”/”Amen” reply to the artistic truth acted out or an audience of mostly Caucasians may recognize how some behaviors/treatment produce the scenarios in the play. I heard some pregnant pauses in claps to some of the play’s dialogue.
Thoughts of a Colored Man is a strong work that is worthy to attend…and discuss with others. Its stories could be told anywhere in the USA. Thoughts of a Colored Man is a great outing any way you look at it.
Baltimore Center Stage also has special supplemental events to enrich the experience such as several AfterThoughts events to discuss careers in the arts and themes such as toxic masculinity. There will be affinity nights marketing to Black fraternities and sororities (that historically support cultural events that bring about social change.)
Thoughts of a Colored Man closes November 10, 2019. Details and tickets
I would strongly recommend any drama club/troupe in high school/college and/or community theatre to check this play out. If you have a tie to any civic organization, suggest they see this show. There’s still time. It closes Sunday, November 10th.
I’d like to see Thoughts of a Colored Man in the Busboys & Poetsmonthly series, “A Continuing Talk On Race” (A.C.T.O.R.) possibly during the 2020 DC Black Theatre Festival. I think high school Thespians/drama clubs and any given college/university could bring this to their campus during the academic year.
The playwright is open to connecting with the Maryland/DC spoken word poetry community he was part of as a teenager to open dialogue in marketing and networking. Find him on Facebook.