Victor Vauban Jr.'s TRUTH Comes To Theater For The New City
THEATER FOR THE NEW CITY - T.R.U.T.H., written and directed by Victor Vauban Jr., begins on the day of President Barack Obama's inauguration. The world’s eyes are on Washington, D.C., as the nation celebrates change.
But rather than focus on the pomp and circumstance, the ballrooms and oratory, Mr. Vauban’s eyes in the first of two one-acts in “T.R.U.T.H.” are on a prison on that historic day.
The juxtaposition of inauguration and incarceration is part of the power of Mr. Vauban’s powerful double bill combined to tell a single, bigger story.
The presence of mass incarceration as the nation inaugurates its first African-American president is an irony not lost on Vauban, whose show looks at color, culture, acculturation, the criminal justice system and the country with the biggest incarcerated population in the world.
“I won’t disclose the reason they’re in prison,” Mr. Vauban says of characters in the first part of this powerful show, a double bill of related one-acts lasting an hour and forty-five minutes. “It’s never revealed exactly why they were there.”
Mr. Vauban’s T.R.U.T.H. is a series of two gut-wrenching social dramas, “Martin’s T.R.U.T.H.” and “Brother Soy,” that look at acculturation, change and mass incarceration through character, story, dialogue and drama.
The play previews May 30 and runs May 31 to June 16 at Theater for the New City, 155 First Ave., in Manhattan. Performances are Thursday through Saturday at 8:00 p.m. and Sundays at 3:00 p.m.in the Cabaret Theater. Tickets are available at www.theaterforthenewcity.net and (212) 254-1109.
“As a dramatist, I seek to take our audience on a journey of reflection and introspection on how we have been acculturated to see one another as others,” Mr. Vauban says, “a meditation on the nature of the crimes perpetrated against minority communities, and our participation (or lack of participation) in the criminalizing processes.”
He adds that “more now than ever, it is imperative that we take a moment to reflect, and take action.” Mr. Vaugan says his main goal is to advance “social change towards the creation of a safer, more informed and cohesive community.”
He seeks to facilitate “deeper understanding of self and others, and greater acceptance of different cultures and ways of being, so that we cannot be so easily pitted against each other.” The work seeks to promote self-awareness and social awareness at once.
“Upon reaching this goal, there will be a better informed community where there is more social capital, less crime and less inter- and intra-community divisiveness and discrimination,” he says.
“T.R.U.T.H.” features Xavier Michael, Janet Conroy-Quirk, Valery Vincent, Kevin Leonard, Daniel Lugo, Marlene Villafane, Yvette Quintero, Estiven Quezada, Tyler Ortiz and Andy Price.
Mary Tierney is associate producer, Rayna Elaine is stage manager and Robert Neapolitan and Geoffrey Christopher are in charge of light and sound design.
The first act, “Martin’s T.R.U.T.H.” shows us three African American men in jail, while the second act, “Brother Soy,” is set in Harlem in 1973 (which happens to be the year of President Richard Nixon’s resignation), showing two brothers separated after a divorce.
“It’s Spanish Harlem. Two preteen brothers are separated after their parents’ divorce,” Mr. Vauban says. “The older brother is taken by his father to live in an imaginary country in South America where his father dies fighting in the Civil War. The brothers lose contact.”
Years later, the war survivor brother, now a religious man, finds the means to return to the United States and reconnect with his long-lost family.
“To his disrepair, his mother is dead and his once beloved brother is now a transgender woman,” Mr. Vauban says. “The man does not understand the new America and finds himself in another war trying to revive the relationship with his once beloved brother.”
Mr. Vauban sees the two one-act plays, presented together, as part of a larger cultural dialogue that is more crucial than ever.
“The play is also an attempt to ignite a new conversation with a different perspective on topics afflicting our society today, such as religion, transgenderism, the mass incarceration of men of color in America, and the importance of family.” Mr. Vauban says. “And at the same time to bring awareness to the reasons why America is the number one country in the world with the biggest population of incarcerated men of color.”
He was born in Brazil and spent more than two decades traveling that nation and the world as part of the circus, giving him a singular perspective on the globe and on society.
“For many years, I worked as a circus performer and in recently he left the big top to become became a circus instructor. I worked for the social circus program of the Cirque du Soleil in underprivileged communities working with endangered youth,” he says.
Mr. Vauban still works as circus instructor in summer camps around New York. “I teach circus as a tool that we believe can help youth in endangered neighborhoods to see the possibilities beyond limitations imposed on us,” he adds.
He began writing plays at Manhattan Borough Community College, under the tutelage of Mario Giacalone, program coordinator at the time - entering his work in festivals around the city.
“Martin’s T.R.U.T.H.” won in the Strawberry Play Festival Competition in Manhattan in 2018 for Best Actor and was nominated for Best Play, Best Director and Best Play Diary.
His play "Leaves" received four nominations in the festival earlier this year for Best Actress (Antonia Badon), Best Set (Julio Arruda), Best Costume Design (Carolyn Adams) and Best Play (Victor Vauban Junior).
T.R.U.T.H., May 30-June 16, Thursday – Saturday 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. (No late seating.) Theater for the New City, 155 First Ave., NY, NY 10003, (212) 254-1109, www.theaterforthenewcity.net