San Francisco Fringe 2017
“In this show you will meet four individuals who each describe their personal experience with the word “BLACK!” We will learn about their stories, how their lives are affected by this word, whether positively or otherwise, and most important, their individual perspectives. We hope to better understand whether there are any similarities or has Society ‘bought into’ the stereotypes that exist.
Michael Washington Brown stands to the side of the small stage saying “Words are powerful” then he talks about the value of words vs. blows and violence. Brown is deliberate, compelling and in his carefully paced way asks what the word “black” means, it’s a fascinating introduction.
Next he takes centre stage and begins narrating and playing several different black characters from different countries. As a black man originally from Britain, he lived in London for many years and then moved to the United States, where he now lives. Smooth music plays and we meet his first character – he’s chatty and loves music, but finds that people prefer to listen to angry music and he is interested in how music affects everyone. His character is energetic and fluid – and Brown is an excellent actor and personable performer, with spot on timing.
Brown discusses how the word ‘black’ is used apart from the color of one’s skin, and he offers many examples that refer to how it is used in every day references. Brown is poetic and rhythmic in his delivery. He uses clever word play when he talks about divisions and identity, it is interesting and makes one think. He uses humor and wit as he makes his points well. Brown changes pace, volume and uses emphasis, as he includes examples that are smart and meaningful. He is enthusiastic and plays his characters with physical and vocal variety, while sometimes speaking in short conversations back and forth between two characters.
Brown is realistic and show different sides of the topic, sharing intuitive commentary and observations about how people interact with black people from his experiences meeting friends, guests and more. It’s provocative and enlightening and this is important for everyone to hear, to understand different points of view and learn about perceptions – and misconceptions.
Brown plays a British character with very cool dance moves. This brings up the topic of accents, Brown’s parents are from the West Indies and speak with that accent, which he is able to imitate for another character. Brown’s writing is intelligent and offers so many ideas and he weaves them into a rich fabric around each character. He puts forth stereotypical ideas and tears them down with logic, dynamic, direct and powerful reasoning.
In a poignant moment Brown talks about the history of the slave trade – he is eloquent and powerful.
Cultural differences are everywhere and he shares warm memories about his West Indian family who count everyone they know as their family. Brown finishes his ninety-minute show as he started, to the side of the stage. It’s elegant book ending as he concludes this excellent show with meaningful words in the most humble, quiet and thoughtful way.