Windy City Media Group Frontpage News
Celebrating 30 Years of Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Trans News
home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2019-11-13
DOWNLOAD ISSUE
About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage

Sponsor
Sponsor

  WINDY CITY TIMES

'This Bitter Earth': LGBT play tackles class, race and political apathy
By Sheri Flanders
2018-10-31

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email


Political apathy has dire consequences for everyone, but especially for marginalized groups who bear the brunt of draconian conservative policies and police shootings.

So when a white gay activist confronts his mild-mannered Black boyfriend's lack of political engagement, love becomes very tricky, indeed.

This is the crux of the Chicago premiere of This Bitter Earth, produced by About Face Theatre. Written by Harrison David Rivers, ( winner of the McKnight Fellowship for Playwrights, a Jerome Foundation Many Voices Fellowship, an Emerging Artist of Color Fellowship, a Van Lier Fellowship and the New York Stage & Film's Founders Award ) and directed by Mikael Burke, ( winner of a 2017 Princess Grace Award Winner in Theatre and a recipient of the 2012 Robert D. Beckmann Emerging Artist Fellowship )—both Black queer men in interracial relationships—this non-linear love story follows two men who meet at a Black Lives Matter rally and explores the ways their relationship changes over the years, affected by the shifting political tenor of the United States.

Although not autobiographical, playwright Harrison David Rivers calls This Bitter Earth "the most personal of my plays." The play originated thanks to a commission from Ed Decker at the New Conservatory Theatre, seeking work that centered on Blacks in this country. After several drafts, a seminal moment in the development of the work occurred when Rivers realized that many of the characteristics of his own life were rarely portrayed onstage. This prompted him to begin writing from the heart, realizing that if he felt this way, others must as well.

Most of Rivers' work is about queer relationships, and This Bitter Earth is reflective of his mission to portray the specific dynamics of those relationships and the way that the world interacts with Black men with nuance. Although both characters in the play hold wildly different views on activism, Rivers deeply identifies with both. The Black character Jesse prefers to stand outside of the political maelstrom, often feeling as if he doesn't have anything to say, or feeling reluctant to place his body within the action.

As these emotions began to hit close to home, Rivers realized that the action of writing This Bitter Earth was indeed powerful activism. Neil, the white character, inspires passion and engagement, and is informed by Rivers view that true activism is showing up for your community when they need you. One need not always be a leader on the front lines, but one must be there somehow; in the group or behind the scenes.

For many years, Rivers didn't believe his writing was political. On the surface, his play And She Would Stand Like this is simply a retelling of The Trojan Women by Euripides. Yet through his lens of Black and Brown bodies moving through the world, the work is clearly political and prescient. Staged as members of a diverse family receiving a mysterious unnamed diagnosis, the varied reaction of the hospital staff to each family member comments on the way that marginalized groups interface with large and powerful organizations in healthcare and beyond.

This story, as does much of his work, is an extension of the experiences that the LGBTQ community is having—specifically those surrounding HIV/AIDS. Alarmingly, awareness seems to be dropping in importance, especially in communities of color where the disease is still decimating large numbers and healthcare is sorely lacking.

Rivers said he's excited to have This Bitter Earth staged with About Face Theatre, a company that has a reputation for championing challenging work by queer voices. His personal mandate is not only to shed light on these issues, but to make sure that his stories are the most deeply and thoroughly human he can possibly create, not steeped in stereotype like so many. In his plays, his characters can express love, anger, sadness and all of the emotions that makes us real in the deepest possible way.

As a child, Burke was fascinated with building worlds. He would assemble his toys by first following the directions, then dismantling them and reimagining them in his own unique way. Today Burke's work is highly imagistic, and his propensities for deconstruction and reconstruction pushed him into this field. He originally started undergrad in music, then switched to theatre halfway through.

As he worked to translate This Bitter Earth from page to stage he queried the experiences of each man in the play. Being a queer Black man in an interracial relationship comes with a particular set of complications, and each character has different coping methods. One strong underlying theme involved love and trust—in personal and broader terms.

In a world where people are bombarded with images of Black bodies enduring pain daily, Black folx can find it hard to trust that white people have their best interests at heart. Working through that distrust can be difficult, and it can be challenging to "give even the most well-meaning the benefit of the doubt," Burke said, acknowledging that this sounds more cynical than it is. As happens in the play, when terrible things occur, people put up walls that can prohibit them from living their fullest possible lives.

Burke said that, compared to the real world, queer and interracial stories are rare in mainstream media. And when they do occur, the stories tend to center on categorization rather than humanity, where race and queerness is simply a matter of fact.

His view is that it is the job of a director to facilitate the audience through the experience of a story, and to find the most effective, compelling and engaging way to allow them to walk in someone else's shoes for just a little while. When approaching a play, he said he asks himself, "Why this play? Why now?" Great art has necessity to it. Burke said he'd rather start a conversation with one person about what the play is wrestling with, rather than to have 100 people leave the theatre and never think about it again.

Ultimately, Burke is a big proponent of stories and their amazing power in shaping who people are and become. It is his personal mission to challenge the narrative people typically hear about marginalized folx in order to create togetherness instead of divisiveness. The collaboration between Burke and Rivers on This Bitter Earth aims to do just that.

This Bitter Earth, which About Face Theatre is producing, runs Nov. 1-Dec. 8 at Theater Wit, 1225 W. Belmont Ave. Tickets are $15-$38 each; visit AboutFaceTheatre.com or call 773-975-8150.


facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email





Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


  ARTICLES YOU MIGHT LIKE

Gay News

HRC plots course ahead at 2019 Chicago gala 2019-11-18 - Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood ( D-14 ) and actor Theo Germaine were among those headlining HRC's annual gala the ...


Gay News

SHOWBIZ Megan Rapinoe, 'High School Musical,' Roxane Gay, 'Paris Is Burning' 2019-11-18 - Soccer star Megan Rapinoe accepted Glamour's Woman of the Year award—another addition to her hardware collection that includes the Golden Ball award as ...


Gay News

NATIONAL Iowa judge dies, N.Y. items, Buttigieg's mixed news, RuPaul 2019-11-18 - One Iowa Executive Director Courtney Reyes released a statement mourning the passing of Chief Iowa Supreme Court Justice Mark Cady, who passed away ...


Gay News

Jury renders $2.3M verdict for Planned Parenthood 2019-11-17 - A federal jury found an anti-abortion group led by activist David Daleiden caused substantial harm to Planned Parenthood by infiltrating abortion industry conferences ...


Gay News

ELECTIONS 2020 Kina Collins fundraiser highlights Transgender Awareness Week 2019-11-16 - Nov, 14, LGBTQ leaders and allies joined Kina Collins at the "LGBTQ+ All in for Kina!" party held at Cantina Laredo in downtown ...


Gay News

YEPP holds second annual 'Rise Up' event 2019-11-16 - Youth Empowerment Performance Project ( YEPP ) held its second annual Rise Up: A Celebration of Resilience Nov. 13 at Chicago Theater Works. ...


Gay News

THEATER REVIEW Rutherford and Son 2019-11-16 - Playwright: Githa Sowerby At: Timeline Theatre Company at Baird Hall, 615 W. Wellington Ave. Tickets: TimelineTheatre.com and 773-281-8463; $42. Runs through: Jan. 12 ...


Gay News

Opera Review Don Giovanni 2019-11-15 - Score: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; Libretto: Lorenzo Da Ponte At: Lyric Opera of Chicago, 20 N. Wacker Drive. Tickets: 312-827-5600 or LyricOpera.org; $39-$299.. Runs ...


Gay News

THEATER SPOTLIGHT Always … Patsy Cline 2019-11-15 - Back then, stars traveled without entourages, stayed at motels, flew single engine planes and were easier to meet. Houston housewife Louise Seger met ...


Gay News

Lambda Legal decries Menashi's confirmation to lifetime judicial appointment 2019-11-14 - WASHINGTON, D.C., November 14, 2019 — In response to the Republican-led Senate's confirmation of Steven Menashi to serve on the U.S. Court of ...


 



Copyright © 2019 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.

 

 

 

TRENDINGBREAKINGPHOTOS

Sponsor
Sponsor
Sponsor
Sponsor


 



About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage


About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Subscriptions      Distribution      Windy City Queercast     
Queercast Archives      Advertising  Rates      Deadlines      Advanced Search     
Press  Releases      Event Photos      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Post an Event      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Blogs      Spotlight  Video     
Classifieds      Real Estate      Place a  Classified     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.