Community Healing at Stage West
George Floyd. Botham Jean. Ahmaud Arbery. Brionna Taylor. Atatiana Jefferson. Just a few of the Black lives cut short by unnecessary violence. How does an entire community manage to express its anger and sorrow, and find a way to come together to heal?
The answer can be found in Aleshea Harris’s What to Send Up When It Goes Down. This highly unique piece will begin a 4-week regional premiere run on Thursday, April 14 in the Evelyn Wheeler Swenson Theatre at Stage West.
Unlike anything you’ve seen before, this play-pageant-ritual-homegoing-celebration blurs the lines between actors and audience. In a series of vignettes, some devastatingly funny satires, others heart-wrenching laments, the play builds to a moment in which performance and reality collide, a unifying theatrical response to the physical and spiritual loss of Black lives. This singular experience creates a space for catharsis, reflection, and healing, offering a way for us to move forward with greater compassion and care for one another. It is not to be missed.
Aleshea Harris is the author of Is God Is (directed by Taibi Magar at Soho Rep and Ola Ince at the Royal Court), which won the 2016 Relentless Award, an Obie Award for playwriting in 2017, the Helen Merrill Playwriting Award in 2019 and was a finalist for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize. What to Send Up When It Goes Down, a play-pageant-ritual response to anti-Blackness, had its critically acclaimed NYC premiere in 2018 (directed by Whitney White and produced by The Movement Theatre Company), was featured in the April 2019 issue of American Theatre Magazine, and received a rare special commendation from the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize. The play was subsequently remounted at Woolly Mammoth, A.R.T., BAM and Playwrights Horizons. Her newest play, On Sugarland (directed by Whitney White) premiered at New York Theatre Workshop in the spring of 2022. Her awards include: Windham-Campbell Literary Prize, Mimi Steinberg Playwriting Award, Hermitage Greenfield Prize, Horton Foote Playwriting Award, Arts and Letters Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Harris is a two-time MacDowell Fellow and has enjoyed residencies at the Hermitage Artist Retreat, Hedgebrook and Djerassi.
What to Send Up When It Goes Down will be directed by vickie washington [sic], who last directed Are You Now or Have You Ever Been… for Stage West. Musical direction is by Sheilah Walker, well-known director and conductor, whose Broadway credits include Porgy and Bess and Ragtime. The cast features Brittney Bluitt, seen in Do No Harm at Soul Rep; Raven Lawes, who appeared in By the Way, Meet Vera Stark at Theatre Three; Nikka Morton, seen in Little Shop of Horrors at Theatre Three; Jonah Munroe, who appeared in Primetime for Murder at Pegasus Theatre; Djoré Nance, last at Stage West in Are You Now or Have You Ever Been…; Vandous Stripling II, seen in Berta, Berta at Jubilee Theatre; Lee Walter, also seen in Theatre Three’s Little Shop of Horrors; and Sky Williams, seen at Amphibian Stage in Egress.
Set and lighting design are by Luke Atkison, with costume design by Jasmine Woods, sound design by Geno Young, choreography by Kourtney Surgent, and props by Ashley Oliver.
What to Send Up When It Goes Down will preview Thursday, April 14 at 7:30, and Friday, April 15 at 8:00, and will run through Sunday, May 8 at Stage West, with possible additional performances elsewhere. All Sunday matinees will be Safe Sundays, with proof of vaccination required. Performance times will be Thursday evenings at 7:30, Friday and Saturday evenings at 8:00, with Sunday matinees at 3:00. The performance on Thursday, April 28 will be interpreted for the hearing impaired. Ticket prices are $40 on Thursdays and Fridays, and $45 on Saturdays and Sundays, with $20 tickets for the two preview performances. Food service is available 90 minutes prior to performances (reservations are advised). Reservations and information are available through the Box Office (817-784-9378), or on the website, www.stagewest.org.