Windy City Media Group Frontpage News

THE VOICE OF CHICAGO'S GAY, LESBIAN, BI, TRANS AND QUEER COMMUNITY SINCE 1985

home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor
Donate

Sponsor
Sponsor

  WINDY CITY TIMES

'This Bitter Earth': LGBT play tackles class, race and political apathy
By Sheri Flanders
2018-10-31

This article shared 1102 times since Wed Oct 31, 2018
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email


Political apathy has dire consequences for everyone, but especially for marginalized groups who bear the brunt of draconian conservative policies and police shootings.

So when a white gay activist confronts his mild-mannered Black boyfriend's lack of political engagement, love becomes very tricky, indeed.

This is the crux of the Chicago premiere of This Bitter Earth, produced by About Face Theatre. Written by Harrison David Rivers, ( winner of the McKnight Fellowship for Playwrights, a Jerome Foundation Many Voices Fellowship, an Emerging Artist of Color Fellowship, a Van Lier Fellowship and the New York Stage & Film's Founders Award ) and directed by Mikael Burke, ( winner of a 2017 Princess Grace Award Winner in Theatre and a recipient of the 2012 Robert D. Beckmann Emerging Artist Fellowship )—both Black queer men in interracial relationships—this non-linear love story follows two men who meet at a Black Lives Matter rally and explores the ways their relationship changes over the years, affected by the shifting political tenor of the United States.

Although not autobiographical, playwright Harrison David Rivers calls This Bitter Earth "the most personal of my plays." The play originated thanks to a commission from Ed Decker at the New Conservatory Theatre, seeking work that centered on Blacks in this country. After several drafts, a seminal moment in the development of the work occurred when Rivers realized that many of the characteristics of his own life were rarely portrayed onstage. This prompted him to begin writing from the heart, realizing that if he felt this way, others must as well.

Most of Rivers' work is about queer relationships, and This Bitter Earth is reflective of his mission to portray the specific dynamics of those relationships and the way that the world interacts with Black men with nuance. Although both characters in the play hold wildly different views on activism, Rivers deeply identifies with both. The Black character Jesse prefers to stand outside of the political maelstrom, often feeling as if he doesn't have anything to say, or feeling reluctant to place his body within the action.

As these emotions began to hit close to home, Rivers realized that the action of writing This Bitter Earth was indeed powerful activism. Neil, the white character, inspires passion and engagement, and is informed by Rivers view that true activism is showing up for your community when they need you. One need not always be a leader on the front lines, but one must be there somehow; in the group or behind the scenes.

For many years, Rivers didn't believe his writing was political. On the surface, his play And She Would Stand Like this is simply a retelling of The Trojan Women by Euripides. Yet through his lens of Black and Brown bodies moving through the world, the work is clearly political and prescient. Staged as members of a diverse family receiving a mysterious unnamed diagnosis, the varied reaction of the hospital staff to each family member comments on the way that marginalized groups interface with large and powerful organizations in healthcare and beyond.

This story, as does much of his work, is an extension of the experiences that the LGBTQ community is having—specifically those surrounding HIV/AIDS. Alarmingly, awareness seems to be dropping in importance, especially in communities of color where the disease is still decimating large numbers and healthcare is sorely lacking.

Rivers said he's excited to have This Bitter Earth staged with About Face Theatre, a company that has a reputation for championing challenging work by queer voices. His personal mandate is not only to shed light on these issues, but to make sure that his stories are the most deeply and thoroughly human he can possibly create, not steeped in stereotype like so many. In his plays, his characters can express love, anger, sadness and all of the emotions that makes us real in the deepest possible way.

As a child, Burke was fascinated with building worlds. He would assemble his toys by first following the directions, then dismantling them and reimagining them in his own unique way. Today Burke's work is highly imagistic, and his propensities for deconstruction and reconstruction pushed him into this field. He originally started undergrad in music, then switched to theatre halfway through.

As he worked to translate This Bitter Earth from page to stage he queried the experiences of each man in the play. Being a queer Black man in an interracial relationship comes with a particular set of complications, and each character has different coping methods. One strong underlying theme involved love and trust—in personal and broader terms.

In a world where people are bombarded with images of Black bodies enduring pain daily, Black folx can find it hard to trust that white people have their best interests at heart. Working through that distrust can be difficult, and it can be challenging to "give even the most well-meaning the benefit of the doubt," Burke said, acknowledging that this sounds more cynical than it is. As happens in the play, when terrible things occur, people put up walls that can prohibit them from living their fullest possible lives.

Burke said that, compared to the real world, queer and interracial stories are rare in mainstream media. And when they do occur, the stories tend to center on categorization rather than humanity, where race and queerness is simply a matter of fact.

His view is that it is the job of a director to facilitate the audience through the experience of a story, and to find the most effective, compelling and engaging way to allow them to walk in someone else's shoes for just a little while. When approaching a play, he said he asks himself, "Why this play? Why now?" Great art has necessity to it. Burke said he'd rather start a conversation with one person about what the play is wrestling with, rather than to have 100 people leave the theatre and never think about it again.

Ultimately, Burke is a big proponent of stories and their amazing power in shaping who people are and become. It is his personal mission to challenge the narrative people typically hear about marginalized folx in order to create togetherness instead of divisiveness. The collaboration between Burke and Rivers on This Bitter Earth aims to do just that.

This Bitter Earth, which About Face Theatre is producing, runs Nov. 1-Dec. 8 at Theater Wit, 1225 W. Belmont Ave. Tickets are $15-$38 each; visit AboutFaceTheatre.com or call 773-975-8150.


This article shared 1102 times since Wed Oct 31, 2018
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email





Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


  ARTICLES YOU MIGHT LIKE

Gay News

COVID-19 Three regions to end Tier 3 mitigations; IRA responds to dining changes
2021-01-15
Following a decrease in COVID-19 test positivity rates and hospitalizations throughout Illinois, Gov. JB Pritzker announced regions across the state are now eligible to move out of Tier 3 mitigations—the ...


Gay News

Hell in a Handbag Productions to present Out, Darn Spot!
2021-01-15
--From a press release - CHICAGO (Jan. 15, 2021) — Hell in a Handbag Productions is pleased to present the campy comedyOut, Darn Spot!, written by and starring ensemble member Tyler Anthony Smith* and directed, filmed and edited by Stephanie Shaw. ...


Gay News

Gov. Pritzker activates Illinois National Guard for security of state buildings
2021-01-15
SPRINGFIELD — Governor JB Pritzker has activated 250 members of the Illinois National Guard for State Active Duty in response to the warnings issued this week by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) regarding threats to ...


Gay News

Research on military trans ban shows urgency of Biden acting on pledge
2021-01-14
--From a press release by The Palm Center - President-elect Joseph Biden has promised to reverse the military's ban on service by transgender Americans on "day one" of his presidency. Research recently released by the Palm Center explains why lifting the ban is an urgent ...


Gay News

Gov. Pritzker releases statement on impeachment of President Trump
2021-01-14
--From a press release - Springfield — Governor JB Pritzker issued the following statement following the second impeachment of President Trump. "For the first time in United States history, a sitting President has been impeached on two separate occasions by the ...


Gay News

40+ national LGBTQ and movement leaders call for removal of President
2021-01-14
--From a GLAAD press release - GLAAD and more than 40 national LGBTQ and movement leaders have signed onto a statement calling for the removal of Pres. Trump from office: "Our nation's security and the personal security of every American is in ...


Gay News

U.S. House votes to impeach Trump again
2021-01-13
On Jan. 13, a majority of the U.S. House has voted to impeach President Donald Trump for a second time. Trump would be the first U.S. president to be impeached twice. This development occurred a week ...


Gay News

Welch set to be new Illinois House speaker, ending Madigan era
2021-01-13
State Rep. Emanuel "Chris" Welch is positioned to become Illinois' speaker of the House, ending Mike Madigan's decades-long occupation of that role, The Chicago Tribune reported. Welch will also be the state's first Black speaker ...


Gay News

State Rep. Emanuel Chris Welch elected Speaker of Illinois House, leaders respond
2021-01-13
--From press releases - Statement from Equality Illinois CEO Brian C. Johnson on the election of State Rep. Emanuel Chris Welch as Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives for the 102nd General Assembly: "Equality Illinois congratulates Rep. Welch on ...


Gay News

Illinois legislature passes bill ending money bond
2021-01-13
--From a press release by The Coalition to End Money Bond - Since 2016, communities across Illinois have been rigorously organizing to end money bond. Today, after years of work by the Coalition to End Money Bond and Illinois Network for Pretrial Justice, the state's legislature has voted in ...


Gay News

Kim Foxx names new chief of staff and policy
2021-01-13
Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx has appointed Alyson Miller to the hybrid role of chief of staff and policy. Miller will assume this newly created position later this month, when Foxx's current chief of staff, Jennifer Ballard Croft, leaves ...


Gay News

Artemisia Theatre announces entirely virtual 2021 season
2021-01-13
--From a press release - CHICAGO - In order to continue its strong feminist story-telling tradition, Artemisia Theatre announces an entirely virtual 2021 season. The new season includes two World Premiere theater productions and eight audio performances airing on its podcast ...


Gay News

Choucair part of Biden/Harris COVID-19 response team
2021-01-12
Dr. Bechara Choucair—the senior vice president and chief health officer at Kaiser Permanente, and onetime commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health—is part of new President Joe Biden and ...


Gay News

Mayor Lightfoot, DCASE announce $2.5M in arts grants
2021-01-11
--From a press release - CHICAGO, IL — Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot and the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) today announced $2.5 million in funding opportunities for Chicago artists and arts organizations. A new "Artist Response Program," ...


Gay News

Madigan suspends bid for another term as House speaker
2021-01-11
Embattled Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan announced Jan. 11 that he was suspending his bid for another term leading the chamber—but is not withdrawing from the race, The Chicago Tribune reported. Madigan fell nine votes short ...


 



Copyright © 2021 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.

 

 

 

TRENDINGBREAKINGPHOTOS







Sponsor
Sponsor


 



Donate


About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Advanced Search     
Windy City Queercast      Queercast Archives     
Press  Releases      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast      Blogs     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Privacy Policy     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.