Sunday, March 13, 2011

American Theatre Tradition continues

At his reception, the new artistic director at Lorraine Hansberry Theatre, Steven Anthony Jones, stated that the 30 year old theatre, under his leadership was ushering in or continuing its founders, Stanley Williams and Quentin Easter’s American African Theatre tradition.

It was a somber night, one filled with both joy and sorrow—the weather was even kind of iffy, not knowing whether it was PC (politically correct) to stay its forecasted showers or let it pour. It decided on the latter, at least until the show was over, and what a premiere performance it was indeed, highlighting the extraordinary talents of many San Francisco Bay Area favorites on stage: Margo Hall who was fantastic as “Undine Barnes Calles," a successful African American Public Relations maven at the top of her game accouterments not withstanding: Gucci glasses, Louis Vuitton bag and Barcelino dress,” David Westley Skillman as “Accountant/Ensemble,” Halili Knox as “Mother/Ensemble,” Carla Punch as “Grandma/Ensemble,” Michael Asberry as “Father/Ensemble,” David Diggs as “Flow/Ensemble,” and new comers to LHT Britney Frazier as “Stephie/Ensemble” and Rudy Guerrero as Hervé/Guy/Ensemble.”

Directed by Ellen Sebastian Chang with a wonderful set design, by Lisa Clark, whose work was elegant simplicity and a great original soundtrack and sound design by David Molina, not to mention again “Undine’s” wardrobe which was as sharp as her character, even as she declined (smile).

Fabulation, or the Re-education of Undine is so Stanley Williams/Quentin Easter! I kept seeing them—at the reception afterward and even at Steve’s party. I even saw Stanley helping someone to his seat in the theatre as the curtain was about to go up.

In the lobby I saw Quentin at the box office handing out tickets and I know they would have loved the Fabulation Boutique where one can purchase “theatre pops,” which Steve demonstrated: chocolate on the outside and red velvet in the middle—my girlfriend bought three at intermission –two for herself and one for her boyfriend (smile). “I love chocolate,” she stated as she pondered whether she could even part with one when she got home.

The boutique was closed at the end of the show—darn it! I’d planned to purchase a few myself. Oh well, next time (smile). When the new artistic director, Steven Anthony Jones introduced the Lynn Nottage’s play, Fabulation, or the Re-education of Undine, up through March 27, I recalled Stanley’s spiel re: candy wrappers—the introduction of a theatre pop was so LHT fitting and the dramatic flare-- Steve gave a great commercial if I ever saw one, that and the $30 30th Season Special. Visit for more details.

If folks are going to sneak in candy, why not sell them some and make the profit? Looks like a tootsie roll and there the analogy ends –period.

The Southside Theatre at Ft. Mason Center, Lorraine Hansberry Theatre’s temporary home, of all the LHT mobile homes over the past 2-3 years, since the Art Academy bought the Sheehan Hotel and thus began the saga that some feel precipitated the founderes demise— Ft. Mason feels like home.

Homelessness is not an easy space and the two men continued season after season in the PGE auditorium, in collaborations with SF Playhouse, not to mention its collaborations with ACT and Berkeley Rep, until finding a permanent home on Bush in 2009 near its old haunt.

For those who are familiar with LHT, especially the space where the theatre had its longest tenure, Ft. Mason’s Southside Theatre, Bldg. D, feels like a homecoming of sorts, which fits the theme of the season’s closing play—“Fabulation or The Re-education of Undine.”

Undine is what one would call a self-made woman, like Adam minus the rib—she didn’t even need Zeus. One might say if one is looking for analogies, she was an immaculate conception minus the vessel—she just was, is? The only problem is when we meet Undine, who runs a successful advertising agency, her fortune takes a turn for the worse and she has to revisit the gene pool so to speak, that is, reexamine her values and reorder her life – set new priorities.

The girl is pregnant and Argentine hubby has taken the money and absconded. She moves quickly from Madison Avenue to name any project in or near Manhattan—are there any projects near Manhattan? Have they all been bulldozed? No, well try Brooklyn’s Walt Whitman Projects. Can you believe this? Disneyland East! I don’t know if Lynn Nottage made the development up or if it exists.

Undine's family which died in a fire—like Kali, survived and welcome the prodigal daughter home.

There's that word again.

Lynn Nottage knows her black families—we really are that forgiving. Kill us and we shake it off and let you have your old room back—WHAT?!

Undine, like many up and coming black professional woman, believes she has to recreate herself, or so she thinks to belong. What she finds out in her mandatory group meetings for former addicts is that those people she torched her family for were not her friends and that the person she became was not a person who would befriend her now that she was once again poor—

The ride is raucous as Undine descends into a hell of her own creation or was she in hell and her decent actually her saving grace? I think, it depends on how one looks at it. She is being investigated by the CIA, has no credit, goes to jail trying to buy heroin, is pregnant . . . can it get any worse?

Undine's unravelling is where the story starts, the ball in her court most of the time, yet she has forgotten how to serve.

I am just blown away by playwright Lynn Nottage’s heroines –these women are long on suffering—and when I went to see Fabulation, it was after seeing her Ruined at Berkeley Rep. What a different play, with similar themes—women having to re-imagine themselves. In both plays, it is not optional. Intimate Apparel another play, yet the same story—and as in all the stories these women lose themselves temporarily in a man.

What is the lesson her Ms. Nottage? As my mother told me when I was this woman—believe me I have been her over and over too many times (smile)—“he fooled you, honey.” Nottage’s characters, in this case Undine, is not a fool, “fooled yes,” disillusioned and then enraged.

The same is true for Mama Nadi (actress Tonye Patano), whose small business in Eastern Congo shelters those “ruined” women whom society has discarded. Nottage’s women are vulnerable and as such are willingly and unwillingly taken advantage of. They are all older women who one would think should know better, but Nottage shows so well that the heart is not necessarily as mature as its surrounding organs—thus the saying, “young at heart.” Visit

I hadn’t realized that LHT at the Southside Theatre—references to Southside Chicago not withstanding (smile), at Ft. Mason Center, Bldg. D, also mounted Crumbs from the Table, which earned two NAACP awards, Fabulation, or the Re-education of Undine received an OBIE and Ruined the Pulizer Prize for Drama in 2009. Fabulation is the companion piece to Intimate Apparel, (Margo Hall told me Nottage the plywright wrote the two at the same time, Fabulation was for relief), which premiered February 2003 at Baltimore’s Center Stage, and is currently up at San Jose State University, opening Friday, March 11, 2011. Visit or call (415) 345-7575 for information about Fabulation or the Re-education of Undine and for information about Intimate Apparel up March 11-19, 2011 at University Theatre visit

If you missed the Ft. Southside theatre reference, Lorraine Hansberry was from Chicago, not its Southside, but the "Younger family" in Raisin in the Sun, hailed from that part of town.

Another interesting personal side note, besides seeing a play with a protagonist with the same name as my Aunt Undine, whom we called Auntie Teenie--she was petite, was the fact that in Intimate Apparel, the antithesis was played by a man from Panama, where my Aunt Undine's husband, Uncle Bennie, came from.


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