{Flying} Dutchman, The Tank

"I lie a lot. It helps me control the world."

{Flying} Dutchman

By Theater of War
At The Tank NYC

Directed by Christopher-Rashee Stevenson

Malcolm B. Hines
Jonathan Schenk

Genee Alyse Coreno (Dramaturgy)
Christopher-Rashee Stevenson (Sound Design)

Additional text from Les Negres
Clownerie by Jean Genet

Photo courtesy The Tank NYC website

February 24, 2018

she being Brand
-new; and you

I read this poem exactly one year after my first kiss. Newly born into confused teenage sexuality and feeling every corner of Divinity. Amazed that my 11th grade English teacher let us read it - aloud, no less - and dissect its meaning like so much cold anatomy.

from low through
second-in-to-high like

When director Christopher-Rashee Stevenson asked what I thought of {Flying} Dutchman, I thought of ee cumming and she being Brand. As a teenager, reading his work felt like getting punched in the guts. Getting the wind knocked out of you. It felt like seeing something you weren’t supposed to see, especially at fifteen in a classroom with twenty of your peers and that boy you liked who would end up becoming an accountant and posting pictures of his dog on Facebook.

I let {Flying} Dutchman wash over me, reborn anew a la Barthes in the contemporary race tensions of 2018 America. This 1964 play by Amiri Baraka - originally titled simply Dutchman - is a product of its time, yet the current re-staging from Theater of War feels prescient. Important. Heavy.

I told Chris that it felt like reading poetry while getting pummeled. The character Clay says, "You don't know anything except what's there for you to see. An act. Lies. Device. Not the pure heart, the pumping black heart. You don't ever know that. And I sit here in this buttoned‐up suit to keep myself from cutting all your throats." Shivers down my spine. The transformation of Clay from well-mannered, well-dressed black man to a bellowing symbol of the black man's struggle hit me like a truck, and I grew to loath Lula in her mocking, simpering, teasing whiteness. The choice to cast Lula as a man (albeit in a dress and behaving "like" a woman) balanced the two characters and gave Lula added brutality.

Because I volunteer at the Tank I would give free beers to Chris, Malcolm, and Jonathan after the show, and hear the weight of their performance drop off them like so many hail stones. It's an intense play, depicted by intense actors, in a small, confined, intense theater in the heart of New York and the heart of modern America.

It's works like this that must be staged again and again, by many different voices in many different contexts. They're the ones that hit you full force with reality and leave you gasping, impossibly, to recover.

Like she being Brand, {Flying} Dutchman punched me in the stomach. Knocked the air out of me. And I don't know if I ever want to recover.

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