THE PECULIAR PATRIOT Returns To National Black Theatre
The Peculiar Patriot, the hilarious yet scathing indictment of the criminal justice system starring Liza Jessie Peterson and directed by Talvin Wilks is returning to National Black Theatre in preparation for a national tour this fall. The multimedia, one-woman show, which had its world premiere to a galvanizing, sold-out run in September, will have previews on July 11 and 12, open on July 13 and run through July 29. The show, a coproduction of Dr. Barbara Ann Teer's National Black Theatre (NBT) and Hi-ARTS, is being remounted as headlines blare with calls for tougher sentencing while governors from around the nation, including New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, are working to restore voting rights to the formerly incarcerated.
"Directed by Talvin Wilks in a strikingly designed world-premiere production at the National Black Theatre, 'The Peculiar Patriot' excels at visceral moments ... even as it builds a strong case against the mass incarceration of African Americans and the effects of a racially skewed justice system. Presented with Hi-ARTS, this is a comedy about a tragedy, and a patriotic call for reform," said The New York Times' Laura Collins-Hughes of the show in 2017.
The Peculiar Patriot follows protagonist Betsy LaQuanda Ross, a self-proclaimed peculiar patriot, as she makes regular visits to penitentiaries to boost the morale of her incarcerated friends and family, and navigates love amid barbed wire. As she shares neighborhood updates and gossip and reminisces about friends, Betsy delivers a clarion call about the mass incarceration crisis in this country, one that sees more than 2.5 million people behind bars and disproportionately affects people of color.
"With this current administration and the rising climate of white supremacy, there couldn't be a more urgent time for The Peculiar Patriot to wake the sleeping giants within our community and speak truth to dangerous power," said Peterson, who was recently featured in Ava DuVernay's Emmy award-winning documentary 13th.
The play, gleaned from Peterson's nearly two decades of experience working at Rikers Island in various capacities, including as a teaching artist, was developed beginning in 2003 with performances in more than 35 penitentiaries across the U.S. and incubation at Hi-ARTS in 2016. Hi-ARTS and NBT joined forces to produce the acclaimed world premiere in September 2017, working with more than 10 grass-roots organizations in criminal justice to help empower and inform the community. The renowned Harlem institutions are staging the remount in order to redesign and prepare the show for the national tour and stages across the country as the battle for criminal reform continues.
The Peculiar Patriot national tour this fall will have stops in Boston; Burlington, Vermont; Cleveland and more.
"The Peculiar Patriot brings together performance and social commentary in a masterful way. The play's vivid depictions and captivating stories are not to be missed. Audience members will leave with a whole new perspective on mass incarceration and its impact on individuals and communities," said Hi-ARTS Executive Director Dr. Raymond Codrington. "In the current political and cultural climate, The Peculiar Patriot should be required viewing for those who want to make change in our society."
"Tropes dealing with Black identity have been baked into this country and have made people of African descent into this society's prey. Not only are these stereotypes inaccurate, they are also dangerous and highly misogynistic as Black women's pain in particular is siloed," said National Black Theatre CEO Sade Lythcott. "This piece challenges those notions and allows us as a community to tackle the need to dismantle America's prison industrial complex, centered on how it impacts Black women and helps heal communities and the nation at large."
Scenic and lighting design is by Maruti Evans, who was recently nominated for a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Set Design of a Play for NBT's James Ijames' Kill Move Paradise. Projections are by Katherine Freer and sound design is by Luqman Brown.
Previews will take place at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, July 11, and Thursday, July 12; preview tickets are $20. The production opens on Friday, July 13, at 7:30pm with an Opening Night Gala immediately after the show. Subsequent performances will run Sundays at 4 p.m.; Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m.; with a Saturday matinee at 2 p.m. Tickets are $35 general admission with the following exceptions: The Opening Night Gala ticket is $50 and the final weekend performances are $40. A discounted ticket price of $25 is available for groups of 10 or more, senior citizens, students, active military members and veterans. Tickets can be purchased online at www.nationalblacktheatre.org, by calling NBT directly at (212) 722-3800 or at NBT's box office, open from 1 to 6 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday. National Black Theatre is located at 2031 Fifth Avenue between 125th and 126th streets in Harlem. (Take the 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6 subway to 125th Street.)