Marissa Harrington, Artistic Director of Face Off Theatre Company, says the group, which was founded in 2015 to focus on stories of the Black experience, has been more active than ever during the COVID-19 pandemic - and during the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement. In an interview with Cara Lieurance, she previews "I'm Not Buying It," a 10-minute play by Vickie G. Hampton. It will be performed online at 7 pm Thursday, July 23 on Facebook Live, and followed by an interview and Q&A with the playwright. The subject of the short play is racial profiling in a retail setting, or "shopping while Black" -- something Harrington has experienced all her life, she says. In 10 minutes, it packs a lot of complicated layers into the story, according to Harrington.
Then on July 31 at 7 pm, Face Off Theatre Company will host an online panel discussion with Reginald Edmund, an award-winning Chicago playwright and founder of the Black Lives Black Words International Project. It supports the work of Black playwrights and artists around the world through Art As Activism workshops, performance showcases, and "college takeovers." Harrington says this is a continuing collaboration with Edmund, who visited in 2018 and 2019 at the invitation of Face Off Theatre and the Western Michigan University Department of Theatre. Edmund will be joined by prominent artists of color from the Kalamazoo region on the panel. Harrington promises their viewpoints will be eye-opening for those who attend the event.
On Saturday, Aug 1, Face Off Theatre's Black Lives Black Words - Live! series will end with a celebration. An online showcase will present a variety of actors, playwrights, spoken-word artists and poets. The two-hour showcase begins at 7 pm.
The Black Lives Matter movement has prompted arts organizations to take a close look at their actions and attitudes regarding people of color. When asked if she has been approached for advice by these organizations, she says it's important for the organizations to do the work of evaluation and creating internal change themselves. Fixing systemic issues should not be her job or the job of other Black people, Harrington says, and that only through engaging in the work will organizations see lasting change.