Theater / Film
BRÉVO THEATRE’S ‘FRESHLY ROOTED’ PRESENTS 4 SHORT PLAYS EACH HOUR AT LITTLE HAITI CULTURAL COMPLEX
Enrique Galán and Brittany “Bk” King in Michael Oatman’s “Benediction,” part of Brévo Theatre’s “Freshly Rooted” series at the Little Haiti Cultural Complex for two nights, Friday, March 31 and Saturday, April 1. (Photo courtesy of Brévo Theatre)
If there’s one thing that’s become clear to Terrence Pride during his tenure as producing artistic director of Miami’s Brévo Theatre, it’s that there seems to be a virtually endless amount of playwrights eager for a space to share their work.
“When we started this theater company, we never thought that we’d get the response we got from playwrights wanting to connect with us,” says Pride, referring to himself and co-founder Zaylin Yates.
Pride and Yates first developed what would become Brévo Theatre as a passion project during their undergraduate years at Florida A&M University, and reignited it in 2020 after both found themselves ready to take an artistic and personal leap. The venture began with an innovative student dinner theater production and has expanded to include online protest art, community discussions, two full-scale productions, and a theater-for-youth program.
Now, having noticed an enormous demand, the company, which has an interest in showcasing works by Black playwrights and focusing on the Black experience, is expanding its horizons into new work with the upcoming launch of its “Freshly Rooted” series. The series features staged readings meant to engage with audiences and introduce community members to “brave new voices, telling stories in innovative and bold new ways.”
The creative space, the founders say, will also provide an opportunity for the company to showcase the work of up-and-coming artists, particularly those who may belong to underrepresented groups and lacking in other avenues to share their voices.
“. . . Who aren’t necessarily as experienced in the profession but they have a desire,” explains Pride.
At the same time, Pride is eager to produce work that “sparks conversation” and will connect with the Miami community.
“If it’s relevant and something that we want the community to think about, we will bring it to the light in our plays,” he says.
Accordingly, the series, which has been a year in the making, will begin with a presentation of four new plays by Cleveland, Ohio, based-playwright Michael Oatman. The prolific playwright is the former Playwright-In-Residence at Cleveland’s Karamu Theater, the oldest African American theater in the country. He is only the second person to hold the honor in the long history of Karamu, the first being Langston Hughes.
Oatman’s plays will be presented on Friday, March 31 and Saturday, April 1, with one play read in an hour’s time beginning at 6 p.m. on each night.
“Michael has such a passion for what he does, with him being a minority playwright and with his plays . . . we ultimately landed on his work because it’s relevant to now,” says Pride about Oatman.
One of the works featured has obvious relevance to current events given the recent repeal of Roe v. Wade. Titled “Not a Uterus in Sight,” it follows a female college professor who is arrested by a Black FBI agent after giving an incendiary speech at an abortion protest.
Another on the roster, called The Slap,” was directly inspired by the infamous Will Smith/Chris Rock Oscar incident, focusing on Jada Pinkett Smith’s memories of a confrontation between her now husband and the late Tupac Shakur as both sought to win her heart.
Then, though it may not be as obviously current as the others, “Far from a Distant Shore,” nevertheless explores topics that are incredibly relevant to life today: it centers three historical characters at work on an anti-lynching petition, which clearly ties into issues of racial injustice that unfortunately persist. And “The Benediction,” where a man, in search of a crucial piece of information, confronts a troubled pastor.
Because another major focus of this series is encouraging playwrights to further develop the featured works in process, the reading of Oatman’s last play will be followed by a discussion panel in which a group of established playwrights—in this case, Véronique George, Dr. James Webb and Bryan-Keyth Wilson—will have the opportunity to weigh in on the plays at hand.
This post-show discussion, called “Pour it Out,” will be made available to the public via streaming on Facebook Live and Zoom as well as to in-person audience members. Since plays are seldom altered after they’ve been published or in some cases even after a definitive first production, Pride hopes that this advance feedback could help improve new plays by unique playwrights before they hit the stage—ultimately making those plays stronger and more marketable, thereby increasing visibility and opportunity for the playwrights in our community.
In accordance, Pride hopes to eventually expand the series into a full-fledged new play festival, showcasing a variety of works in one action-packed weekend as well as providing workshops and networking opportunities for fledgling playwrights and the other artists involved. He’s also eager to take the work explored in the series even further out of the box of what conventional audiences might expect—for example, by presenting theater that will not necessarily be delivered in English.
“I want to create space on the stage to be able to reflect the South Florida community as a whole, and I think that by embracing other cultures and their languages, that’s how we go about doing that,” he says.
And while Pride is hopeful that audience members will respond positively to “Freshly Rooted,” even ahead of these upcoming first performances, it is already evident that the project will have incredible benefits for the artists involved.
“Every time I am offered a platform, offered a stage, in front of audiences, it is an opportunity to convince, persuade, cajole or entertain,” says Oatman.
“I literally live for these moments. The stage is how I enter the world, the place where I am allowed to pour it all out,’ and have it still be okay,” he says.
WHAT: Brévo Theatre: “Freshly Rooted,” reading of four plays by Michael Oatman
WHERE: Little Haiti Cultural Complex, Proscenium Theatre, 212 NE 59th Terrace, Miami
WHEN: 6 p.m., Friday March 31 and Saturday, April 1
INFORMATION: 661-547-2815 or brevotheatre.org