Foundry Theatre's THE BOX Will Now Open 4/30
The Foundry Theatre presents a play that exemplifies the company's work: Marcus Gardley's The Box: A Black Comedy. The play, directed by Seth Bockley (writer of February House, director of Philip Dawkins' Failure: A Love Story at Victory Gardens), is a hilarious satire that delivers a punch to the gut of U.S. policing and imprisonment. Written for five actors who perform over a dozen characters spanning generations of captivity and freedom dreams, The Box: A Black Comedy is currently making its world premiere, through May 11 at the Irondale Center (85 South Oxford St., Brooklyn).
Remaining performances take place April 17, 18 & 19, 22-27, 29 & 30, May 1-3, 6-11 at 7:30pm; and April 19, 26 & 27, May 3, 10 & 11 at 3pm. Tickets, $35, can be purchased at www.thefoundrytheatre.org or 866-811-4111. Critics are welcome as of April 27 for an official opening on April 30.
The cast features Sheldon Best (The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner), Leon Addison Brown (The Trip to Bountiful), Jonathan-David (A Civil War Christmas), Mikeah Ernest Jennings (Young Jean Lee's The Shipment) and Andrés Munar (Civilization). The show features compositions by Imani Uzuri, whose music Time Out NY has called a "narcotic blend of ethereal sounds," and choreography by Princess Grace Award-winner Camille A. Brown. The creative team includes set designer Mimi Lien (Natasha, Pierre, & The Great Comet of 1812), costume designer Gabriel Berry (Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike), lighting designer Scott Bolman (Robert Wilson's Zinnias: The Clementine Hunter Story) and props designer Raphael Mishler (Belarus Free Theater, Under the Radar Festival).
In this raucous, satirical fable, an ensemble of five actors performs a host of characters across generations of captivity and freedom dreams. While music, dance and absurdities abound, at the center are the characters of Deadlust and Icarus - a father and son who lose each other in the American labyrinth of policing and prisons. With over 7,000,000 people currently living under correctional supervision in the US, award-winning playwright Marcus Gardley takes aim at one of the most troubling afflictions of our times with provocative theatrical wit.
Marcus Gardley, writer of The Box: A Black Comedy, said, "I am fascinated with the untold or the forgotten story. I am a playwright, a poet and a gravedigger and I am passionate about digging up the stories that get buried under our shoes. With the murder of Oscar Grant by an Oakland cop, I felt determined to create something for my hometown and my country. These feelings were made even more real when I was interrogated by the police on my way home from a play in Berkeley, California. I was harassed because apparently I fit the description of a serial rapist in the area and they had a hard time believing that I was just an artist doing work in the community about race relations and history. Since that time, I have been obsessed with telling the national story of the complex relationship that law enforcement has in our communities."
RJ Maccani, Co-Leader of The Foundry and Lead Artistic Producer for The Box: A Black Comedy, said, "This production is the kind of singular experiment that has distinguished the Foundry amongst NY theatermakers. I come out of the movement to end mass incarceration and to build alternative forms of justice. To be leading an artistic production at the company, a satire on U.S. policing and imprisonment, with Gardley stretching himself into new forms, is thrilling."
Gardley began the project with the desire to write about racial profiling, in part due to his own experience, and in part in response to the murder of Oscar Grant by BART police in Oakland in 2009. He was further influenced after joining a delegation of artists The Foundry brought to the U.S. Social Forum in Detroit in June 2010, when he was introduced to community groups from across the U.S. that are exploring issues surrounding criminalization and security practices that perpetuate racial profiling. He also participated as a panelist in the Foundry's spring 2012 Dialogues series This Is How We Do It, which created an international forum on working alternative practices in safety, economics, media and politics.
The play's development process, led by Gardley and Maccani, also included in depth initial interviews, as well as an ongoing 'community dramaturgy' facilitated through development workshops with a broad network of people who are both affected by and addressing the circumstances of contemporary policing and imprisonment. This kind of community engagement-seeking the foundational material for the production via direct community participation-represents a widening of the Foundry's ongoing, active thinking about what community engagement can mean.
Some of the community-based organizations Gardley and The Foundry engaged in the creation of The Box include Streetwise and Safe, the New York City Anti-Violence Project, Families for Freedom, Picture the Homeless, Women on the Rise Telling HerStory (WORTH), and the Police Reform Organizing Project (PROP). These organizations span the demographics of New York City and organize among youth of color, currently and formerly incarcerated women, homeless people, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) communities, HIV-affected communities, and immigrants facing and fighting deportation, among others. Each organization empowers their community members to challenge criminalization, unjust, illegal and biased policing practices and to create local problem-solving measures that build community safety.
The Box follows The Foundry's immensely successful production of Brecht's Good Person of Szechwan, which premiered at La MaMa and was remounted at The Public Theater, and garnered a Best Director OBIE for Lear deBessonet, three Drama Desk nominations ("Outstanding Revival of a Play," "Outstanding Director of a Play," and "Outstanding Music in a Play"), and vast critical acclaim.
In advance of The Box: A Black Comedy, on March 31, The Foundry will present Radical Imagination: A Conversation, featuring two provocative thinkers who walk the talk of radical imagining: the artist Taylor Mac (star of The Foundry Theatre's Production of Good Person of Szechwan)and the renowned historian and author Robin D.G. Kelley. The event will take place at 7pm at the Ukrainian National Home (140-142 Second Avenue, Manhattan). For tickets, please visit www.thefoundrytheatre.org.
The Box: A Black Comedy will be accompanied by The Foundry's Audience Ambassadors program, which aims to build access to NYC theatre for low-income communities. Now in its third year, the program has brought over 1,100 participants to the theater, many for the first time. In April, The Foundry will gather audiences from its partnering communities to participate in the ongoing conversation sparked by the production. Community organizers from across the city will bring groups to attend The Box: A Black Comedy, and join the artists in a conversation over food following performances.
Following the world premiere run of The Box: A Black Comedy, The Foundry will present a series of weeknight dialogues in May, taking a deeper look into the workings of, and working alternatives to, our current policing and imprisonment system.