L. to R. Peter Alexander as Hunter, Max Seijas as Fielder, and Jesse Vaughn as Marquis peruse the Manual
For those of you who have not yet seen this clever, thought-provoking, eye-opening, and consciousness-raising play, and thought you’d missed it, you are in luck! It has been extended to April 7, so you have a few more chances to have your mind blown!
The tragedy that occurred recently to the family that plunged over a cliff into the ocean in their SUV in Mendocino County, killing the parents and kids, made me think of this play because of the issue of upper middle-class white parents adopting black kids. In Hooded, a smart yet rather naive UC white woman, Debra-wonderfully depicted by Jessica Risco- had adopted a black child who eventually makes it to an elitist prep school. By all intents and purposes, he comes off as “white. As Dr. Darron Smith wrote in the Huffington Post, “White adoptive parents of black children do not have the luxury of denying their children a critical racial awareness, else they run the risk of raising them to be ‘socially white’ ” as what happens to Marquis (beautifully and honestly played by Jesse Vaughn). According to program notes, Marquis is a Neitszche-loving, prep-schooler living in an affluent suburb. He befriends Tru (spot-on Tr’Vonne Bell) when they both end up in a police station holding cell. Tru, from inner-city Baltimore. Tru is intelligent and erudite, he inserts references to Tupac in their conversation such that, as their friendship develops, it appears that Tupac and Nietzsche are one and the same in Tru’s mind.
Tru chides Marquis about his “whiteness” while Marquis tries to convince him that he’s “cool”. Among them, they compare notes and question each other about their lifestyles, present and future plans in “blackspeak” and contemporary American. Tru, sensing that his friend isn’t getting it and has “lost his blackness”, ends up writing a thick manual-the play’s title- for Marquis feeling that his friend has “lost his blackness.” What adds to the richness and truth of Chishom’s play is that there is not one false note in the interaction among Tru, Marquis, and Peter Alexander as Hunter, BE Rivers as Borzoi, Max Seijas as Fielder; and with the young, white girls: Delaney Corbitt as Prairie, Rebecca Hodges as Clementine, Ari Lagomarsino as Meadow.
What I feel is significant about this play and makes it unique and memorable, though flat out hilarious, is that it also shows another side- a dark side- of how one sees oneself relative to those around him/her so that one desires to become “the other” and succeeding, only to lead to one’s ultimate undoing.
“Hooded,” received its world premiere at Mosaic Theatre in Washington, DC. Playwright Tearrance Arvelle Chisholm has won many prestigious awards for his work, winning both the Rosa Parks Playwriting Award and the Lorraine Hansberry Award at Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival in 20116. He has been named a “rising star” by Variety Magazine.