Theater Alliance Production Of DAY OF ABSENCE Kicks Off Season Of Revolutions

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The first production of Theater Alliance's mainstage theater season, DAY OF ABSENCE by Douglas Turner Ward, confronts the troubled origins of American theatre head-on in a feisty, stereotype-bashing evening of comedy, music, and performance.
The production opens on October 11, 2019, following a week of previews beginning October 5. It is the first professional production of this play to appear on a Washington, DC stage.

Reclaiming the traditions of minstrel shows, DAY OF ABSENCE is a "satirical fantasy" that shines the spotlight on how often people of color - and specifically, Black people - go unseen in their communities, with their contributions left unrecognized. When the Black people mysteriously vanish from a country-fried Southern town, the white residents are left to fend for themselves . . . and naturally, antics ensue.

A feisty, over-the-top "reverse minstrel" show, DAY OF ABSENCE flips the script on traditional tropes. In this production, under the direction of artistic director Raymond O. Caldwell and acclaimed director/choreographer Angelisa Gillyard, the format will mirror that of actual minstrel shows -- including song and a variety show in advance of Ward's "proper play."

"At its height, the American minstrel show was 'bigger than baseball,'" said Caldwell.

"We often forget that it was the vehicle that spread racism as we know it throughout America. These bafoonish, helpless, lazy, oversexualized depictions created the stereotypes and misinformation of who Black people were . . . especially in communities where there weren't many actual Black people. And we're still working to undo those notions today."

DAY OF ABSENCE was originally produced at St. Mark's Playhouse in New York City in 1965, where it was performed more than 500 times alongside another short play, HAPPY ENDING. The playwright received a Drama Desk Award in 1966 for this duo of plays. Theater Alliance is proud to rekindle awareness of this significant Black playwright and his work.

Featured performers include Ezinne Elele, Dylan Fleming, Kaisheem Fowler Bryant, Charles Franklin IV, Damondre Green, Jonathan Palmer, Sisi Reid, Nia Savoy, Jared Shamberger, and Kayla Warren.

This production is made possible through the support of the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, the Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation, and the Paul M. Angell Foundation. Season 17 at Theater Alliance is generously sponsored by David and Jean Heilman Grier.

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