Bay Street Theater & Sag Harbor Center for the Arts is honoring Black History Month with a special collaboration with Eastville Community Historical Society and the Southampton African American Museum—In Case You Hadn’t Heard: A Conversation Between America’s Past and Its Promise. This theatrical, provocative view of race in America makes its world premiere on Monday, February 22, at 8 p.m. on the Bay Street Theater website.
Sourced from the text and spoken word of 20 influential African American thought leaders of the past and present, this new virtual presentation offers a thought-provoking, unvarnished look at issues surrounding race in America. These leaders include Houston Baker, James Baldwin, Mary McLeod Bethune, London Breed, Keiajah Brooks, Stokely Carmichael, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Angela Davis, Dick Gregory, Fannie Lou Hamer, Lorraine Hansberry, Jemele Hill, Tamika Mallory, Robert P. Moses, Khalid Abdul Muhammad, Barack Obama, Amber Ruffin, Jesse Williams, Marley K. and Malcolm X.
The words from these leaders’ speeches and writings have been synthesized together to create a candid four-way conversation about the Black experience in America, and thus, the 45-minute piece avoids widely known sound bites from oft-quoted icons such as the great Martin Luther King Jr. The four sides to this eye-opening conversation are spoken by a group of talented actors—Darryl Gene Daughtry Jr. of Broadway’s The Inheritance, Crystal Dickinson of Tony Award-winning play Clybourne Park, Jason Veasey of Broadway’s The Lion King, and Clarissa Vickerie of A Little Water Clears Us at the Wolfson Gielgud Studio in London. As words from the past and hopes for the future collide, a frank and forthright dialogue pours forth, sounding a call to action with unapologetic language that may be upsetting to some viewers.
“The piece is incredibly powerful, and speaking as a white man, I feel like I’ve learned an incredible amount from it,” says Bay Street Theater Artistic Director Scott Schwartz. “There’s this one story that was particularly moving to me about a Black guy who had been a drug dealer who then decided he couldn’t keep doing that and needed to go straight. And he did. But as a result, he put himself at an incredible financial disadvantage. He was making a lot of money being a drug dealer, and when he stopped doing that, the work he could get paid him only a small fraction of the money he was making before, but nevertheless, he decided to do this for his life. That story and the discussion around that story, or lack thereof, available to African Americans was very compelling to me.”
In Case You Hadn’t Heard is adapted and directed by Reggie D. White, a New York-based multidisciplinary artist and educator who most recently appeared in the Vineyard Theatre’s virtual piece, Lessons in Survival, which he co-conceived, and he also starred in the 11-time Tony-nominated two-part epic, The Inheritance. Shows he’s directed have been featured at Bay Street Theater, The Public Theater, Atlantic Acting School, New York Winterfest, Bay Area Children’s Theatre, Berkeley Playhouse, AlterTheatre Ensemble and other venues. He is an alumnus of the Atlantic Acting School, where he now serves as school artistic director.
“The fight for transformational racial justice in this country is an ongoing four-century-long endeavor,” director Reggie D. White says. “In that time, we’ve heard millions of souls raise their voices in spaces big and small. In Case You Hadn’t Heard images a forward-looking conversation between those souls—with gratitude for the legacy they’ve left us and fully aware of how much work is left ahead. This piece lifts up the thoughts, hopes and worries of 20 Americans who have given their voices, their time and their lives to the cause of our collective liberation. In Case You Hadn’t Heard is a love letter to the joy, passion and brilliance that have been the lifeblood of our enduring fight to make America live up to the promises she made to herself.”
The evening will include a virtual talkback between the director and the actors, led by Dr. Georgette Grier-Key, executive director of Sag Harbor’s Eastville Community Historical Society. “In the last couple of years, we have been examining and seeking the words of these great writers and leaders to find some hope, but the jarring reality is the fact that their words ring true today,” Grier-Key says. “So while we garner strength and courage from the work, it’s a stark reminder that we must continue to fight for democracy and be on the right side of history.”
Tickets to In Case You Hadn’t Heard: A Conversation Between America’s Past and Its Promise are $10 and are available for purchase online at baystreet.org. For more information, contact Bay Street Theater Marketing Coordinator Michael Pintauro at [email protected].