To honor Juneteenth, the nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States, Stageworks Theatre and Jobsite Theater in Tampa have teamed up and joined a national effort to present the Juneteenth Justice Theatre Project.
The effort is also in response to the current civil uprising in reaction to the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and others.
Actors from both theaters will join theaters around the country to present a staged reading of Vincent Terrell Durham’s Polar Bears, Black Boys, & Prairie Fringed Orchids on the stage at Stageworks Theatre. It will be directed by David Jenkins, artistic director of Jobsite Theater.
The six actors will be socially distanced. The performance will be recorded by Rory Lawrence Productions and streamed for free all day Friday on the theaters’ websites and social media platforms.
Jenkins said in an email that the cast has been rehearing over Zoom and are taking extra precautions for the day of the reading, including having their temperatures checked, keeping distance, no physical touching and keeping masks on until the reading begins.
The play was a finalist for the 2019 National New Play Network’s National Showcase of New Plays. Theaters around the country will also present the play that explores gentrification, the Black Lives Matter movement and police brutality on black bodies.
The plot follows a white liberal couple who host a cocktail party at their Harlem brownstone for a Black Lives Matter activist, his gay white lover, and the mother of a slain 12-year-old black boy. As the night goes on, emotional debates are sparked, ranging from underweight polar bears to protecting the lives of black boys.
Vincent Terrell Durham is a scriptwriter, author and poet who honed his skills as a stand-up comic.
The stream is free, but viewers are encouraged to donate to select charities such as the Southern Poverty Law Center, the NAACP, Black Lives Matter, and a new national fund for black American theater.
The Juneteenth Justice Theatre Project was launched by Aldo Billingslea to center black theater artists and new voices, address systemic racism in the theater industry and help raise funds for black theaters around the country.