Oakland Needs Theatre: Ubuntu Theatre Project Delivers
On Thursday night, I saw a double feature show put on by
Waiting For Lefty
I’ll start from the second show and work backwards. As I sat in Classic Cars West, the lyrics “in a bourgeois town” encasing me, the New York Italian accents and the crass real-talk of the working class, I had to ask myself if 2014 wasn’t also 1935. Especially when Fayette, the boss, offers a loyal worker a higher position at a lab, as a spy. He’d be spying on a chemist who will be making poison gas. Then Fayette makes an off-handed comment about another war being close at hand. Today I woke up to my Facebook feed giving the thumbs up to Jon Steward for his calling out of “false patriotism” (The Way We War) and letting America know that yes, again, we may go to war.
The phrases “unfair distribution of wealth” and “widening of the economic gap” came to mind as the 1935 cabbies walked around the stage. Phrases that are used today to talk about the 1%, the working class, the middle class, the lack of power of anyone other than a hand full of people. Then I thought about the mocking phrase “oligarchy.” I thought of the cabbies working in Oakland in the shadow of capitalist giants like Uber and Lyft and a line in Waiting For Lefty about there not being just men in the yard hit me. Yeah, they wear pants, but they are women, was the gist of it.
Marguerite to Maya: A Moment in Prose
And what about the status of women? What about the written word? What about Maya Angelou? The space for a woman to tell her story, while alive, posthumously, for other women, particularly women of color, to have the space, the voice, the audience for the stories they tell?
With passages taken straight from I Know why The Caged Bird Sings and “Phenomenal Women” playing intermittently, spoken in Angelou’s voice, N’Jameh Camara told the infamous writer’s life story.
One aspect of this rendering of Angelou’s story that I especially appreciated, was that Camara gave her a real and vibrant sexuality. Too often, we hear the stories of abuse and not those of empowerment. Not to say that we shouldn’t hear about abuse. We need to be hearing about it more, so that it isn’t regarded as so irregular, so uncommon, so that it is seen as the detriment it is, as insipient as it truly is- but as the workshop, Sexpo, spoke to, finding and owning your own sexuality, sensuality, passion, after having survived rape or molestation, is something our society doesn’t know what to do with. So thank you, Ms. Camara, for going there.
Ubuntu strikes again! Local Oakland venue partnerships, pay what you can admission, relevant entertainment, talent, quality and friendly, real people delivering customer service.
Another reason why theatre, in particular, is an important Art form for a community, for the community of Oakland, is it is a threading together of the internal and the external, the individual and the people gathered around them, audience members, ticket sellers, actors, musicians, family, entrepreneurs and friends, and the feelings and thoughts that stir inside of us unknown is being contextualized, given space to be. Theatre often starts the conversations we need to be having. Emboldens the issues of our time and stirs something in us. Music, conversation, the flesh enlivened by what is presented as a past, but what is in front of us in the present, is the Art Oakland needs.
Stay tuned for more shows by Ubuntu Theatre Project during their first full-year of productions in 2015!
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