Negro Ensemble Presents IMMINENTLY YOURS by Karimah
Dorothi Fox and Arthur French will star in the premiere of "Imminently Yours" by Karimah, to be presented by The Negro Ensemble Company (NEC) from June 17 to 30 at Theatre 80, 80 St. Marks Place. The play deals with the socio/philosophical issues of expropriation of their land and history by eminent domain in today's politics. A secret mountain enclave has been inhabited for centuries by descendants of slaves. When its tradition of secrecy is breached by a millenial resident, the remote hamlet is discovered by the state's governor, who aims to evict its elderly residents by eminent domain for nonpayment of taxes, but underestimates the savvy community there. The play depicts an antagonistic society pitted against elders who are peacefully reliving their history. Generations ban together as they learn the past, teach the present and fight for their legacy. Count Stovall directs.
The play is set in the South, where a mountaintop settlement has been inhabited by descendants of slaves since emancipation. The settlement is cooperative and its residents are now primarily elderly. A few ramshackle dwellings serve as a facade: behind them is a verdant lakeside settlement with luxurious houses built in various periods. Many of the landowners live elsewhere, but relish returning to their town each year to revive its old traditions. All the families have an oath of silence, fearing that exposure of their mountain paradise could endanger it. A young member of the community innocently reveals it to a member of the staff of the newly-elected Governor. Once the settlement is revealed, it becomes impossible for the residents to retain the land: the unpaid property taxes would be simply too great. Oddly, there are no villains in the play. Everybody is actually well-intended, which shines a revealing light on expropriation of property from Black landowners as fateful, and therefore tragic. Karimah reminds us that Black literature abounds in themes of property (land as property and people as property) and of the unyielding demand for dignity and respect from those who have historically been denied it.
The production opens on June 19, which is "Juneteenth" -- the anniversary of the abolition of slavery in Texas in 1865, a date that became emblematic of emancipation throughout the Confederacy and is now widely celebrated as African-American Independence Day.
This production is one of three in a series of women's plays funded in part through a grant by "Made in NY" Women's Film, TV & Theatre Fund, a program of The City of New York Mayor's Office of Media and Entertainment ("MOME"), which provides finishing grants to encourage and support the creation of film, television, digital, and live theater content that reflect the voices and perspectives of women.
NEC's awards include a Pulitzer Prize (1982, "A Soldier's Play"), two Tony Awards, eleven Obies and many more. Its legacy reads like a Who's Who of America's Black theater artists. In 2009, Signature Theatre presented a season of readings of various plays from the NEC canon, with Douglas Turner Ward as curator and Ruben Santiago-Hudson as associated artist.
Photo Credit: Jonathan Slaff