Leslie Felbain, director of the play Baltimore, called the play “cinematographic.”
She said audience members can look forward to “empathiz[ing] with characters physically, viscerally, intellectually and emotionally.”
Kirsten Greenidge’s Baltimore takes a contemporary twist on the classic coming of age theme. Focusing on Shelby Wilson, an African American resident advisor for a college in New England, Greenidge focuses on the extreme issue of racism in the United States, focusing particularly on the surprising prominence of racism on college campuses.
Baltimore’s plot is not focused specifically on any particular event, but rather includes references to events such as the Ferguson riots, the Black Lives Matter movement and the deaths of Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Freddie Gray, Tamir Rice and Sandra Bland, to tell a powerful story calling for nationwide peace and acceptance.
Presented by the UMD School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies, the show will run from Feb. 26 to March 5.
Greenidge was influenced largely by “Baltimore,” the poem by Countee Cullen that addresses the story of a child who visited Baltimore and was called the N-word. The visuals are based off of old ‘20s, ‘30s and ‘40s cartoons that went into the development of Mickey Mouse along with various sitcoms that perpetuated “racist images of black people,” according to Felbain.
Felbain also spoke about the importance of being aware of microaggressions. Audience members are not going to a feel-good play, rather one that brings up difficult topics and aims to start conversations.
“My hope is that many students will come and people will be encouraged to begin and continue conversations even if they move through them awkwardly,” she said.
She stressed that the essence of the play is not about “fixing” issues, but about understanding them, talking about them and acknowledging them.
The participants in the play were in a class together for a full semester where they discussed the play’s subject matter before they started working on the production. Felbain emphasized this was necessary in order to let these students “go as deep as Kirsten has gone with her script [because] we needed a group of people who were committed to exploring the depth of this.”
The play is part of the Big Ten Theatre Consortium’s New Play Initiative for women playwrights, meant to showcase female works at universities across the country. Greenidge’s play is running at Boston University until Feb. 28, then moves to the University of Iowa March 24 to27, and is scheduled to be produced at the University of Nebraska in addition to being read at the University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign.
Featured Photo Credit: On the couch from left to right are Avery Collins and Mikala Nuccio. (Taken by Jared Schaubert)
Jordan Stovka is a freshman journalism major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Raye Weigel is a sophomore multiplatform journalism and English major and may be reached at email@example.com.