Monthly Archive for: ‘April, 2014’

NOT A GENUINE BLACK MAN a 10th anniversary success at Berkeley Rep

NOT A GENUINE BLACK MAN: Dramatic Monolog. Written and performed by Brian Copeland.  Developed by Brian Copeland and David Ford. Directed by David Ford. Berkeley Rep, The Osher Studio, 2055 Center Street, Berkeley, CA 94704 (Located in the Arts Passage on Center Street between Shattuck and Milvia — just a block from Berkeley Rep) (510) 647-2949 or


NOT A GENUINE BLACK MAN a 10th anniversary success at Berkeley Rep Rating: ★★★★☆ (4 of 5 stars)

Brian Copeland

You may wonder who is Brian Copeland and what does he have to say that has kept his dramatic monolog in the public eye for 10 years. Opening to rave reviews at The Marsh in San Francisco in 2004 the monolog and the performer have been equally well received throughout the United States. Last night he received a standing ovation at Berkeley Rep’s Osher Studio again demonstrating his skill as a performer but with a suggestion that over familiarity with his material has taken some sting out of his horrendous story of being a black man in a racist white environment.

The environment in question is Bay Area suburb of San Leandro that was a hotbed of racism in the 1970s when, at the age of eight, he moved with his family into an all-white neighborhood. There he his family received intimidation, racial slurs and eventually threat of eviction. Now at age 50 he is very successful radio and TV host and still lives in San Leandro that initially was 99% white but now is one of the most ethnically diverse communities in America.

He starts the evening with a few humorous anecdotes that quickly shift to startling stories of what he had to endure. The title for his monolog is attributed to a letter he received from a black listener to a radio show he was hosting. He was accused of not being “a genuine black man.” He questions of why black people say this of him. Are there distinctive traits, other than skin color, that deserve the label of being a genuine black man? The question is rhetorical and Copland moves on to tell the shocking stories of his life beginning with a father, Sylvester, who “went out for groceries and never came back.” When he did come back he was abusive to the entire family.

Copland is a master at changing his voice and using body language to depict the various people who inhabited his world. There is the thin voice of his mother who insists she was born in Rhode Island rather than Alabama. Then there are the strong declarations of his grandmother, the vicious diatribes of Sylvester, the childlike speech of his young sisters, and a plethora of characters that impinge on his life. He is masterful at becoming himself as an eight year old.

How he ever was able to rise above the hate and other tribulations that surrounded him is a story that deserves telling again and again. As a seasoned performer with an excellent director and he is able to balance much of the heartache with humorous quips to give the audience breathers between the dramatic sequences.  An unexpected shocker takes place at the end of act one when Copeland describes his bouts with depression and attempted suicide.

In act one Copeland’s change from the voices of his characters to his own mature voice seems at times to be by rote and does not fully express the monstrosity of the various incidents. In the second act that apparent lapse is not present and he reaches out with his professional demeanor to encircle the audience with his passion as they rose for a standing ovation. Running time about two hours with an intermission.

Kedar K. Adour, MD

Courtesy of

Photo by Joan Marcus

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