Othello and Otis

Othello and Otis
Through June 21st

“I’m terrified at the moral apathy – the death of the heart – which is happening in my country.” Spoken by prolific writer James Baldwin in 1963, these powerful words could very well have been uttered today in response to the continued murder of African American citizens by a militarized police force, gross and persistent inequality, racial bias, continued atrocities exacted on the African American community and white apathy toward it all. Bag O’ Bones proposes an end to this cruel war in Othello and Otis, a powerful and impactful hour of examination of white apathy of the black experience.

Trayvon Martin was visiting his soon-to-be Stepmom’s house. He had walked to the 7-11 and was on him way back home neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman, on a personal errand at the time, followed Martin for several minutes because “this guy looks like he’s up to no good or on drug or something”. They had a altercation and Zimmerman fatally shot Martin in front of his Stepmom’s house.

He was 17 years old, unarmed, carrying skittles in his pocket.

There are hundreds who have suffered similar fate; unarmed, innocent african american people who are violently murdered by police. Trayvon Martin’s death is outrageous. More outrageously, there are hundreds of individuals who have suffered the same fate as Martin. Stephon Clark was shot in his own backyard. Eric Garner was murdered in NYC by being put in a chokehold- a maneuver prohibited by the NYPD. Michael Brown was shot six times in the middle of the street. Tamir Rice was 12 years old and unarmed. Philando Castile was murdered in front of his girlfriend and daughter as he reached for his driver license. There are hundreds more. Hundreds. The white community cannot continue to ignore the pain and suffering of the African American community.

The company expertly blends text from James Baldwin, Solange, Shakespeare, among others using Trayvon Martin’s death as a point of departure, a point of focus that encompasses hundreds of years of suffering and oppression at the hands of white people. Audio from President Obama’s remarks on the Trayvon Martin ruling is effectively interspersed throughout the piece and serves as a touchstone for the evening’s performance.

Selections of music by Otis Redding, performed by soulful Sandy Rather, adds depth and soul to the already powerful fusion of texts. She bellows, belts and mourns her way through a variety of Redding’s work. Her presence is raw and her pain visceral. Francesca Gamez’ straightforward performance is grounded and direct. Barika A. Croom brings sophistication and depth to her heightened text. Choreographer Paulina Gamiz captures emotion that transcends words. Director Tinks Lovelace has once again created a timely, necessary piece of theatre that packs a hard punch and lingers long after you’ve left the theatre.

As the President so eloquently conveys, there’s a lot of pain surrounding what happened to Martin. It is an ancient, festering pain. The African American community have a set of experiences and a history that inform how the community interprets what happened to Trayvon Martin and the many others that have followed. Martin’s murderer, George Zimmerman, was found not guilty on all counts citing Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law, claiming he was using self defense against the unarmed 17 year old. Outfuckingrageous.

Damn, we (the white community) need to be educated. We need to sit through uncomfortable truths. We must allow ourselves to be informed. We must whole-heartedly acknowledge the suffering and the heavy burden of injustice that we will never understand. My white privilege affords me a view of the world through rose-colored glasses. But that is no way to view the world, particularly when my neighbor, my brothers and sisters, my fellow citizens are suffering. More accurately, are still suffering. It’s easy to deny and ignore a problem that is painful and ugly by claiming ignorance, or imagining it has nothing to do with us. It has everything to do with us.

How can the white community re-enforce and support our African American community? Essentially listen and learn. Give a shit about the pain and suffering the African American community has endured for hundreds of years and continues to endure. Seek out stories about the black experience. Learn African American history. Honor and carry that history. Advocate for and seek to empower those who are not afforded equality. Acknowledge the pain caused by white privilege, ingrained racial bias, general apathy. It’s our minimal responsibility.

One more performance on Thursday June 21st. Don’t miss it.

 

Trayvon Martin (1995-2012).

 

 

Othello and Otis; Three Clubs, 1123 N. Vine St., Hollywood. Running time: 45 minutes with no intermission.

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