FAIRFAX, Calif. — Playwright and performer Larry Powell has a lot to say, on stage and off.
Therefore, when asked to contribute a monologue for Greenway Court Theatre’s “If I Should Wake,” he needed to have a conversation with the executive team — and with himself.
What You Need To Know
- Greenway Court Theatre's new project If I Should Wake is a series of eight monologues performed by a diverse group
- The series fuses theater and film, and will stream for free on Twitch in two parts
- Part 1 debuts on November 20 at 7 p.m., and Part 2 begins streaming November 27
- Greenway Arts Alliance is a nonprofit organization committed to uniting communities through art, education and enterprise
"For so long, I’ve been sort of in conversation with someone who didn’t look like me or wasn’t where I was from, and so I needed to be very clear that I was going to be able to explore my imagination by myself in a way that I could really feel empowered to be very, very, very 'blackety-blackety-Black' in my imaginative process," said Powell.
Working with the nonprofit arts organization and seeing the diverse group of eight playwrights they’d assembled for the project, he knew right away he had found the right space.
“Just being a part of that group I felt safer, you know? Just being a part of a group that looked like the world that I see," said Powell.
Representing the community outside their theatre has been the mission of the Greenway Court Theatre since their inception twenty years ago.
“Day one, we talked about how important it was to serve all of Los Angeles,” said co-artistic director Pierson Blaetz.
The reason, he explained, was obvious: The theatre is located on the campus of Fairfax High School, which he describes as the second most diverse high school in the state of California.
"Over 30 languages spoken, so for us to come on that campus, it was clear that we had to serve everyone who is living in Los Angeles," said Blaetz, who added that the show, a serious of monologues prerecorded to be streamed on Twitch, came out of his own thinking about the idea of a bardo — a space between life and death.
“Which is really what I was feeling, certainly at the beginning of COVID — it’s like one part of my life has ended and there’s a new life coming, and I don’t know what that is," he said. "And it’s scary and confusing and I was seeing that in the eyes of every around me.”
Each of the monologues is unique and presented in a unique way. Powell’s segment is called "The Reclamation of My Black Ass Imagination: An Awakening." He performs the voiceover, while dancer Jamal Wade interprets his words into movement.
In a way, theatre is in a bardo as well, illustrated between monologues by glimpses of the dark and empty stage, waiting to be reborn. This isn’t the 20th anniversary season Blaetz imagined, and he’s determined to make sure it’s not the last.
"Well, I gotta get back to the word 'surviving,'" he said. “We have to make sure that we build the resources that will keep us through all next year because you don’t know what’s going to be happening.”
Whatever the future of American theatre holds, Powell said it needs to be more inclusive. He hasn’t always felt his voice was welcomed or valued by the theatre industry on the whole, but after the Black Lives Matter demonstrations this summer, he began to notice a shift.
"I have definitely experienced people throwing out their olive branches and saying 'Oh my god, do you have something to offer?'" he said. "And it’s like, 'Yeah, check your inbox. Check your door for my fingerprints. I’ve been knocking on this door.'"
He sees this moment as an important turning point for the theatre worldwide.
"It is a space where we are going to get a lot more honest with ourselves about the stories we are charged to tell," Powell said. "I think we are charged to tell stories that are of the world that really is outside, not the world that is reflected in the subscription bases. Not the world that is reflected in the boards.”
Ultimately, he’d like to see board members, audiences, and all of the participants inside a theatre look more like the world outside of it. If that happens, he says, “it’s gonna change the stories, and then it’s going to change the world — because that’s what theatre does.”
If I Should Wake will be streaming for free on Twitch.TV/GreenwayCourtTheatre. Part 1 debuts on November 20 at 7:00 p.m., and Part 2 begins streaming on the 27th. Both will be available on demand through December 10.