On a humid summer night, Stokely Carmichael gathers us together and prepares us for what’s to come. He stands on a bench and rolls up a sign into a makeshift bullhorn and tells us we better get ready. The gravity of the situation can be heard in his voice. This is real and we have to take it seriously. White supremacy kills and we must understand that. Carmichael then jumps off the bench, puts the sign down, looks at the audience directly and asks with a wry smile, “You ok?”
Going into Meshaun Labrone’s one man show, “Power! Stokely Carmichael,” we’re automatically ready for the sober, hefty civil rights lesson that’s coming. But Meshaun Labrone’s brilliance is his awareness of the subject’s weight and ability to teach it with a level hand.
Like all great leaders, Carmichael was able to relate to his people by visualizing the struggle for us and bringing you to a place where you could deal with it mentally. But if Martin Luther King and Malcolm X were the prinicipals of the school, Carmichael was your favorite, down to earth teacher you loved. That teacher who told you entertaining stories of his mentors, the aforementioned King and X, and made you understand the importance of what they did and the greatness they possessed in them. His gift, so beautifully captured here by Mr. Labrone, was to make you see that those gifts were in you too.
Labrone first shows us the pain of living as a black man as he moves from Carmichael and takes the guise of a 74 year old man who has worked all his life for an abusive white man. Illuminating the torture of everyday life is then balanced by an examination of some of the joys in life, most notably the music of James Brown. Labrone wins us over with his charisma (and dancing skills—that split was awesome!) and never lets go. He expresses the love he has for Black women by pulling a lovely sister from the audience and bringing her onstage. This could have been awkward in another actor’s hands, but with Labrone it is sweet, funny and enlightening. All of this is made that much easier and entertaining by Jennifer Knight’s fluid direction. Each lighting change and transition is seamless and our attention is never lost.
But Labrone’s major achievement is drawing the parallel between 1960’s Black America and our 2016 version. Our hatred of Black skin, our fear of white supremacy, and our willingness to lose our selves for the fruitless prizes of American society still hold us back. And Labrone doesn’t hammer this point home. He respects our intelligence by allowing us to come to it naturally. The same way all the great teachers do.
6201 Santa Monica Boulevard
Sunday, June 5th
Friday, June 10th
Saturday, June 11th
For more info, visit https://www.facebook.com/POWERSTOKELYCARMICHAEL/?fref=ts and www.powerstokelycarmichael.com
UPCOMING DATES TO BE ANNOUNCED FOR CAPITAL FRINGE AND NY INTERNATIONAL FRINGE FESTIVAL