African-American Shakespeare Company's L. Peter Callender Comes Full Circle When He Directs BLACK EAGLES
The African American Shakespeare Company will present Leslie Lee's Black Eagles under the direction of the company's Artistic Director, L. Peter Callender. This marks a return of the company to the Marine's Memorial where it will present the extraordinary drama about the Tuskegee airmen, America's first black fighter pilots. The play opens onstage during a reception honoring the airmen and Gen. Colin Powell. As the now-elderly WWII pilots reminisce, their younger selves join them, which serves as the basis for the story of this brave company to be retold.
Willie Rogers, the last member of the original Tuskegee Airmen died at age 101.
"I have always wanted to do this play ever since I became Artistic Director of AASC," says Callender. "With the recent passing of Willie Rogers, I felt in my bones it was time to bring their story to SF and keep the memory of these great American heroes alive and strong."
The relationship between the African-American community and the military has been a fraught one over the years, including how the draft was handled during Vietnam, but as Callender notes "There are several stories of African-American heroes (male and female) from past wars, space exploration, The Buffalo Soldiers; builders, and inventors where the contributions have been of immense importance. "I recently read about a group of 11 African-American soldiers brutally mutilated and killed by German SS soldiers in Belgium. Their bodies were found frozen solid some time later. Pursued by the Germans, these men were taken in by a family who hid them in their farmhouse. They might have been safe there, but when they heard that the Germans were close to discovering them, they sacrificed themselves to save the lives of the Belgian family who protected them. The family would certainly have been killed for protecting these soldiers. This is true heroism! These are the forgotten stories. We wish to bring these stories up from the depths to remind a fractured nation of the sacrifices of brave men and women of color."
Callender also notes that World War II was a time when national pride was at the forefront. "Our nation was at war, and although there were serious racial differences from sea to shining sea, when the shooting started, even though racism was rampant in many places, including the bases and in foxholes, for the most part, everyone was in hell when the shells dropped. This is just a reminder that, even though we have differences, when it comes to protecting our nation and its people,allits people, we are one: Americans!"
Cast includes AASC company members Devin Cunningham (Zonita, Cinderella), Gift Harris (Jitney) and joining them is Callender's son Brandon Marcus Callender."I have always wanted the opportunity to act with or direct my son, so I am thrilled to finally have this opportunity with Black Eagles," says Callender before playfully pausing and lifting one brow. "We will see how he feels at the end of the process!"
Thomas Simpson: Elder Leon
Ron Chapman: Roscoe
Devin Cunningham: Leon
Kyle Goldman: Roy Truman
Margherita Ventura: Pia
William Caldwell: Dave Whilson
Todd Risby: Elder Nolan
Joseph Pendleton: Othel
Luchan Baker: Clarkie
Gift Harris: Elder Clarkie
Brandon Callender: Nolan
Donald Antoine: Buddy
Tickets: $35.00 (can be purchased at african-americanshakes.org)