Local theaters unite for Black Lives Matter

Stage-screen star Colman Domingo appears in new AASC online talk-back

Dozens of Bay Area theaters are joining together on Juneteenth for an online staged reading of “Polar Bears, Black Boys & Prairie Fringed Orchids,” a timely play by Vincent Terrell Durham about the Black Lives Matter movement — and more.

San Francisco play incubator PlayGround presents the show at 7 p.m. June 19 as part of its Zoom Fest, in partnership with the Juneteenth Theatre Justice Project, started by Bay Area actor Aldo Billingslea to address systemic racism in the theater world.

The 75-minute show, with both pathos and humor, describes the conversation and debate that happen when a liberal white couple hosts a cocktail party in their renovated Harlem brownstone, with a guest list including a black civil rights activist, his gay white lover and the mother of a slain 12-year-old black boy.

Co-commissioned by PlayGround and Planet Earth Arts, the show was a finalist in a 2019 National New Play Network National Showcase and also presented in Stanford Repertory Theatre’s 2019 Summer Festival.

Co-presenters include the Screen Actors Guild and local troupes including Lorraine Hansberry Theatre, American Conservatory Theater, Aurora Theatre Company, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, City Lights Theater Company, Crowded Fire, Custom Made Theatre Company, Cutting Ball Theater, Golden Thread Productions and African-American Shakespeare Company.

Peter Kuo directs the cast including Carrie Paff, Michael Ray Wisely, Britney Frazier, Jennifer Bradford, Rodney Jackson, Patrick Russell, and Gabriel Q. Solomon. The free presentation will be online at https://playground-sf.org/Juneteenth/. Reservations are required, and donations are encouraged.

At 4 p.m. on June 20, San Francisco’s African-American Shakespeare Company begins a new online “Talk-Back” Series, an interview presentation along the lines of the late James Lipton’s popular “Inside the Actors Studio.”

Stage and screen actor, writer and director Colman Domingo — of “The Scottsboro Boys,” “Selma” and “Fear the Walking Dead” fame, among others — is the first guest. A veteran of AASC productions “The Taming of the Shrew” and “Les Precieuse Ridiculuse,” Domingo will be interviewed by AASC Artistic Director L. Peter Callender.

Guests also are invited to watch or re-watch “Selma,” director Ava DuVernay’s 2014 film about landmark 1965 civil rights marches in Alabama (which is streaming for free in June on most major platforms) in which Domingo portrays activist Baptist minister Ralph Abernathy.

Advance registration for the program at www.african-americanshakes.org.

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