SCPA FEELS THE BLUES
June 14, 2015
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San Diego SCPA is putting on its first production of Blues for Mr. Charlie, a modernized play written by James Baldwin about racial conflicts in the 1960s. This show is heavily reliant on the story of Emmett Till, a young African American male who was unjustly beaten and killed by White men as a hate crime in the 1950s. This show will be produced in the Ole Kittleson Little Theatre beginning Thursday February 26, 2015 to Saturday March 7, 2015.
According to SCPA’s artistic director and director of Blues for Mr. Charlie, Mr. Richard Trujillo, he hopes to “connect some dots from the 1950s to today in bringing to life the fact that racial issues and racial divide have not improved.”
Due to this show dealing with such a controversial topic and being produced at SCPA in the wake of controversial race related incidents such as the cases of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Trayvon Martin, this play may have the potential to spark debate. Mr. Trujillo said, “It should spark debate. I think that there’s going to be a lot of people who are definitely going to have some very strong opinions about what they are seeing and listening to,”
Although this show is very different from the upbeat productions usually put on at the school, it is important that these issues be addressed and brought to life in a stage setting.
Mr. Trujillo said, “I’m hoping that people can see at least some of the journey we’ve taken and think that there’s been some improvement but also look at the underlying components of racism and the fact that we still have a long way to go. If people can walk away with a different sense of a perception of it all I think that would be fantastic,”
While technical theatre teacher and co-director of Blues for Mr. Charlie, Mr. Blokker, says he wants people to “Take home a deeper understanding for the ‘other side’ of any bias. I don’t expect, or even want, people to forgive or condone any attitude that oppresses another human being. But I want people to see that oppressive views stem from long histories in our society, and that good people can have bad sides and vice versa. Ultimately, I want everyone who participates in this show in any capacity, from actor to audience and all in between, to see a little of themselves in the various characters in the play, and to see the darkness inside us in a way that makes us want to be better people,”
SCPA junior, Charles Crain, who portrays Lorenzo, a student in Blues for Mr. Charlie, said that his perspective on society has changed thanks to Blues; “It’s one thing hearing about atrocities, and learning about them, and being in class, but it’s another thing trying to embody that situation and understand the feelings that those people had and the terrible things they had to deal with. That’s a very somber note I’ve learned,”
Because of this show’s touchy subject matter and the fact that it is being portrayed by high school students, the maturity level for such a piece is in question.
SCPA sophomore, Ryan Manikowski, who portrays the principle character, Lyle Britten, a white storeowner, said “Being 15 and going on 16 halfway through the run of the show, I would say I’m close enough to start to think about it because it’s the world we’re about to go into and we should know the precautions of where in certain places we might be discriminated because SCPA is pretty sheltered. Going out of SCPA I know it’s going to be hard,”
Because Lyle is one of the most unpleasantly complex characters in the play, he may be rather hard to portray.
When asked what the most challenging part about playing this character is Ryan said, “Basically everything for me because he’s my opposite mentally, physically, and just everything is hard to wrap my head around. It’s hard to wrap my head around – especially after looking at the picture of Emmett Till – how someone could do this. It’s hard to get that mentality and how to make these words sound like I believe them.”
Blues for Mr. Charlie is going to be a very powerful production and also a very significant piece for people to come see. It may have the potential to change your perspective on the world.