On Thursday morning, our family enjoyed the stage presentation of “Black Boy,” Richard Wright’s acclaimed 1943 memoir about life in the Jim Crow South at The Center for the Arts in Grass Valley.
It was a timely and poignant presentation — well attended by students and retirees alike. It also was a reminder of The Center’s increasing depth and breadth of programming. Last year, The Center presented a similar “literature to life” program of Lois Lowry’s The Giver.
“Black Boy” is a verbatim adaption and stage performance of the classic literary work, presented by A Program of Young Audiences in New York. It focused on Wright’s “hunger for knowledge” and his fight to claim his basic human rights in a racist society.
The program, adopted to stage in 2005 and having premiered at the Kennedy Center, featured 50 minutes of verbatim performance from the first half of the epic American novel. Actor Tarantino Smith (a 12-year veteran in this role) played upwards of 15 characters from Wright’s past. It was impressive to watch.
The program included a pre- and post-show discussion, which explored themes such as racism and individualism. The issues addressed in this novel still resonate today.
The students and retirees made a wide range of cogent observations, from touching on the value of this performance in a homogenous community such as ours to concerns about racial and LGBT intolerance stemming from the U.S. presidential election. It was a lively, interactive discussion.
We grabbed a quick lunch and went back to work — or to school in our son’s case. Thanks to The Center for this experience in our community. A video trailer is here: