Photo Credit: Ubuntu Project

From “Dance of the Holy Ghosts” Photo Credit: Natalie Khuen

Colin Blattel and Michael Moran,

founders of

Ubuntu Theatre Project in Oakland,

have been collaborating creatively for fourteen years. They grew up together, acted in plays side by side as kids, and played little league together. They both went to Boston University’s Acting Conservatory and as Colin says, he is lucky to be able to take on such a “big life adventure with his best friend.” Michael brings the directing expertise, as he is currently attending University of California, San Diego in the MFA Directing program, and Colin brings his five plus years of Non-Profit management. Both bring a dedication to producing accessible, affordable, quality theatre in Oakland that reflects the community.

The theater company’s business model, their sliding scale payment options, and creative staging of performances in both non-traditional and traditional community spaces, are all conscious pieces of Ubuntu Theatre Project’s establishment of a solid and relevant theatre scene in Oakland.

Ubuntu partners with Laney College and has plans of expanding this partnership to include an academic and theatre based program to prepare individuals for professional careers in theatre, post graduation.

ubuntu dance of the holy ghosts

Dance of the Holy Ghosts,  a show written by Oakland playwright, Marcus Gardley, was proof that Ubuntu is fostering art that matters, entertains and brings together the diverse community of Oakland. There is an especial appeal to a younger demographic that has not found traditional theatre an accessible or relatable pastime, which is another factor to establishing a thriving theatre scene in Oakland, where historically theatre has existed but not consistently thrived.

Photo CreditL Ubuntu Theatre Project

Photo Credit: Natalie Khuen

 

I write about Dance of the Holy Ghosts with hesitance, as it is a piece of art that one runs the risk of not doing justice. The truest praise of the power of a piece of art, as well as the strongest attestment I could make to the absolute value of Ubuntu Theatre company at the present time in Oakland, is to say that everyone should see this play and every play that is directed by Ubuntu and\or the actors in this theatre perform in.

Photo Credit: Ubuntu Photo Project

Photo Credit: Natalie Khuen

 

The multi-layered story made use of free association in its dialogue and narration, which were lyrical, clever and oftentimes lingered in the air with strong sentiments of devastation or hilarity. The play encompassed not only the story, of a man, who is a grandfather when the audience first meets him, his grandson, the woman who is both the boy’s son and the grandfather’s daughter, and the man’s only true love, but larger concepts of love and loss against the political realities of being a black family in Oakland.

In terms of the construction of the play, I was most struck by the art of the transitions from one memory to another. The main character, Oscar, came back to his memory book time and time again. The narrator would read out “memory # (whatever number it was)” and then tell us what sense it was evoked by. For example: “Sense memory. Brought on by the smell of Sweet Potato Pie.” The characters played themselves at various ages and switched ages just as gracefully. Threads, such as the Sweet Potato Pie, were woven through the play’s entirety, present both in the play as a physicality and as a symbol of family, tradition, legacy, pride, education and at times, even life or how these concepts save one’s life. The narrative was a raw representation of the faults of individuals, the cracks that form between family members and how society’s racism manifests in familial dynamics and has the power to ravage an individual.

Dance of the Holy Ghosts was also a testament to the strength and capacity for love of human beings for each other, the silent threshold that keeps on expanding to hold heavier and heavier weight, and the flexibility of hearts that bow like with the fullness of rain in a storm and retain their forms after it passes.

Ubuntu Theatre Project’s Summer Festival plays continue with the following:

Ubunto campo maldito

San Francisco Fringe Festival
Exit State Left
156 Eddy Street
SF

ubuntu the radicalisation of bradley manning

Oakland Aviation Museum
3252 Earhart Road

Ubuntu grounded

Oakland Aviation Museum
3252 Earhart Road

Ubuntu Marguerite to Maya Angelou

Warehouse 416
416 26th Street

Ubuntu Waiting for Lefty

Warehouse 416
416 26th Street

Ubuntu calendar

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