Finding Black Boy Joy
By Lance G. Newman II
Featuring DeepSeaRice, Isiah Fish, Nipsey Green, David Moore, and Lance G. Newman II
A review by Keith Waits
Entire contents are copyright © 2020 by Keith Waits. All rights reserved.
“If people see me as an angry Black man, well, I AM angry!” In the post-show talkback, Lance G. Newman II spoke plainly what he and others had expressed for an hour with great range and emotion. In a series of poems and prose pieces by Newman and others, the words themselves were plain but they arrived in evocative patterns and dynamic rhythms that captured the pain, frustration, and rage of the Black male experience, sometimes with acid humor.
The virtual production arrives shortly after a similar presentation of Hannah L. Drake’s Fix It, Black Girl, and the two are clear companion pieces in this Black Lives Matter moment. The design elements display distinct progression, with a nice consistency of image and costume and a striking use of makeup to underscore the themes.
Once again there is an exploration of Black identity, and Newman’s writing uses anger as a departure point to delve into social and historical context for racial discrimination and how it is inextricably embedded into the DNA of Black Americans. But the observation is often about how White Americans behave and how Black identity has necessarily been shaped by prejudice and oppression. Newman’s voice is colorful and vivid, prompting laughter, empathy, and recognition, whichever side of the question you are on, yet that easy engagement also leaves powerful afterthoughts.
Although most of it belongs to Newman, he shares the stage/screen with four other writers. Isaiah Fish throws some heat in his ”It’s A Scientific Fact”, DeepSeaRice zeroed in on the stated theme in “Finding Joy”, Nipsey Green speaks to the pendulum swing of emotion with “Joy vs Rage”, and David Moore tells a powerful narrative of misdirected fatherhood in “Punk”. All of the contributors have their own voice, but each piece all lifts and compliments the core idea here.
As a performer, Newman is mercurial and fluid, with the nimbleness of a standup comic in how he uses his voice and a confrontational bravado in his physicality. Green embraces a righteous vigor straight from the pulpit, Moore and DeepSeaRice opt for more measured tones, while Fish is a supple and impactful voice for LBGTQA+ inclusion in this dialogue.
As Actors Theatre moves closer to a fully virtual season, Finding Black Boy Joy once again speaks directly to the moment and attempts to further develop the Zoom format in live streaming performance. The next several months will have us as audiences exploring a strange new world of theatre, music, and dance coming to us through such technology, and maybe ONLY through such technology. While it is frustrating to not sit in a theatre, it will be interesting to see how companies adapt. The online opportunity to quickly develop presentations such as this in response to an unprecedented social protest movement is something ATL has leaned into heavily, with Fix It, Black Girl, and Finding Black Boy Joy part of series of forums on hot button issues on the minds of the community now.
The opening night live streaming was a fundraiser, with proceeds to be shared equally between The Louisville Bail Project, and Actors Theatre of Louisville. Donations are accepted through Sunday, July 5.
Finding Black Boy Joy
Live-streamed on July 3, 2020, available to view on Facebook and YoTube
Actors Theatre Direct
Actors Theatre of Louisville
316 West Main Street
Louisville, Kentucky 40202
Keith Waits is a native of Louisville who works at Louisville Visual Art during the days, including being the host of LVA’s Artebella On The Radio on WXOX 97.1 FM / ARTxFM.com, but spends most of his evenings indulging his taste for theatre, music and visual arts. His work has appeared in LEO Weekly, Pure Uncut Candy, TheatreLouisville, and Louisville Mojo. He is now Managing Editor for Arts-Louisville.com.