I have the pleasure of being both dramaturg and fight director for this production, working alongside director DeMone Seraphin.
The two leading actors, Megan Smith & Alphonso Walker Jr., and former students of mine. As an educator, one of my favorite phrases is "former student/current colleague," and I'm proud to be able to use it in this production.
Dutchman plays from February 8-11, 2018
In 1965, the year after Dutchman opened, Amiri Baraka published “The Revolutionary Theatre,” where he stated, “Americans will hate the Revolutionary Theatre because it will be out to destroy them and whatever they believe is real.” This manifesto came after Dutchman, a play that embodies many of the ideas expressed in the essay, and in fact referenced in the manifesto.
There is no small irony to The Revolution going mainstream.
Amiri Baraka’s Dutchman premiered at the Cherry Lane Theatre in New York City in 1964. It was awarded an Obie and made into a feature film; it is a touchstone in American theatre history. Baraka hoped to create art that would incite revolution, calling in fact for the destruction of America and the rise of new, more just world.
This is a play written in anger. A brilliant expression of a righteous anger that still resonates today, as many of conditions have not changed. But we are producing it in a spirit of love and the radical optimism he later embraced, in the hopes of illuminating what we might become.
Taking us back to the time of the play itself, Baraka, born LeRoi Jones in 1934, was in the process of severing his ties to his prior life, as he embraced Black Nationalism. Prior to this, he and his first wife, a Jewish woman, had founded a press that published the like of Allen Ginsburg and Jack Kerouac. Along with his new identity, he divorced his wife, saying he could no longer be “married to the enemy,” and created increasingly political and controversial work.
Many times in the process of creating this production we have said that the Amiri Baraka who wrote Dutchman would probably have hated what we are doing. Would have had a fit at the fact that half the production staff are Jewish, and would have hated the spirit of benevolence and cooperation in which we created this. We also said that the man he later became, a self-described “Radical Optimist” would have loved what we are doing and where we are going with his work.
I have far more to say about this play (and playwright) than I can fit into a program note. Some further reading I recommend includes:
"My Favorite Anti-Semite: How Amiri Baraka Inspired Me" - Jake Marmer in Tablet
"Amiri Baraka and the Black Power movement deserve more credit" - Daniel Matlin in The Guardian
"Amiri Baraka's Legacy: Both Controversial and Achingly Beautiful" - NPR Obituary by Neda Ulaby