This has been a crazy month for theatre. Lots of new shows opening, seasons beginning, friends’ plays running and lots of invites to even more shows stacking up in my DMs. Meanwhile, I’m trying to to keep my nose to the grindstone on editing the second draft of my one act play, the third draft of my full length play and pitching about four different projects for potential production. Gotta make that theatre, even when there’s no time. You make the time baby. So on one hand, I’m surprised we’re already more than halfway through September, but also kind of not? However, I knew I had to bend over backwards to catch Dionna Michelle Daniel’s latest, American Saga: Gunshot Medley: Part 1. because 1) I’m a BIG fan of her contributions and diligence to shifting the dynamic of the LA theatre community (a lifetime goal of mine) and 2) this show was pretty much already the talk of the town, after only one weekend of production.
Because it was a Monday night pay-what-you-can performance, the theatre community really TURNED UP for this show. Sprinkled throughout the audience were notable theatre artists from the Echo, Boston Court, A Noise Within, South Coast Rep, Center Theatre Group and of course a number of Rogue Machine’s own. The place. Was. Packed. I could feel that people were excited to watch this show.
This first play in Dionna Michelle Daniel’s series American Saga is reminiscent in style and subject to Suzan Lori Parks Father Comes Home From the War, Parts 1, 2 and 3. So it’s no surprise to find acclaimed theatre artist and Father Comes Home From the Wars veteran Desean Kevin Terry directing this fresh new take on the underlying history informing America’s still lingering racial inequality. The lyrical flow of the piece melds comedy, history, drama, movement and music into a piece of theatre magic that is sure to affect audience members in many different ways. This isn’t exactly what I would call a “call & response” piece, however, I loved that I could hear the audience reacting a good number of times throughout the show. And yes, I was one of those people. Dionna’s writing is a truthful yet simultaneously provocative exploration of something we are all trying to make sense of, something we need to be aware of before we can begin to solve the problem. Because realizing the problem is the first part of finding the solution.
I especially loved the way contemporary music was woven into an otherwise historical setting. The Logic number was a total treat and pick me up moment that had, I’m pretty sure more than just me dancing in the seats. But we see this idea of clashing time periods presented again with characters from our historical past finding and having to clean up our contemporary, mostly branded garbage. That’s what stuck with me most from this play, the reverse analogy of African American ancestry cleaning up our messes, our mistakes, our racism. Flip that on it’s backside and you begin to open your eyes to how African Americans today are still paying the price for the irreversible effects of slavery. You hear the names, names we have heard on the news and seen in the papers, of modern day martyrs of the cause. Or not even the cause, just human beings trying to live their lives like everyone else, denied their right to life. It’s hard to watch for that reason, but that’s good because this is something we often don’t consider. Everyone needs to see this play.
Make it happen. Catch American Saga Gunshot Medley Part 1 through Sept. 23rd as the final production at Rogue Machine’s MET space before they move over to the Electric Lodge in Venice. OR support the show in Watts at the WLCAC Theatre from Oct. 5-14. Definitely one to file under “Woke Plays” in your theatre-going catalog. Also note that there are two casts for this show, which may result in wanting to see it more than just once.