Monday, August 9, 2010
White America Discovers Marvin X
White America Discovers Marvin X--Fifty Years Later
Marvin X and his Academy of Da Corner rocked the San Francisco Theatre Festival today. Not only did the largely white audience enjoy his very first play Flowers for the Trashman, 1965, produced by the drama department at San Francisco State University, but they enjoyed as well his current production of The Wisdom of Plato Negro, Parables/fables.
Additionally, the audience was blessed with the productions of his two top drama students, Ayodele Nzingha, Lower Bottom Playaz, and Geoffrey Grier, San Francisco Recovery Theatre. Both playwrights, actors and directors evolved from the mentoring of Marvin X.
Ayodele as actress, director and producer was consummate in her rendition of Opal Palmer Adisa's Bathroom Graffiti Queen. Since an actor can only excel when given a proper script, we must acknowledge the fine writing of Opal Palmer Adisa. But the actor takes the script to the next level of excellence and Ayo surpassed the script with her acting ability.
Her Lower Bottom Playaz performed in grand manner Marvin X's first play Flowers for the Tashman. The playwright was totally pleased with the young men who delivered the drama in the classical form it deserved after a half century in the Black Arts Movement.
Ayo's Mama at Twilight remains a touching story of denial and faith in the family drama about HIV/AIDS. The Lower Bottom Playaz of West Oakland, childhood home of Marvin X, have had time to become well skilled in the presentation of their repertory. All the actors must be congratulated. Someone mentioned they were especially happy to see the young men's performance in Flowers for the Trashman.
Geoffrey Grier's plays, Jet, The Spot, and Night at the Blackhawk, are equally honorable and worthy of praise. We especially enjoyed his production of Amiri Baraka's Dutchman. The audience enjoyed it as well. Even though we may have wanted a younger actor to perform the role of Clay, the person who did it was so skillful we excused his age.
It was amazing to see that Flowers for the Trashman and the Dutchman are indeed classics that have withstood the test of time. Fifty years later they are still relevant and powerful dramas of black consciousness in America. Lula said to Clay that it's all about your manhood. And so it is.
The day ended with the Wisdom of Plato Negro, Parables/fables by Marvin X. The mostly white audience sat in anticipation as members of Academy of the Corner Reader's Theatre gathered on stage. Marvin X opened with singer/guitarist Rashidah Sabreen's original song A Real Love, joined by Marvin's poem What is Love. The audience sensed they were in for something different.
Paradise Jah Love came with Parable of the Penguin, then Parable of Oakland's Day of Absence, recounting the day the Oscar Grant verdict was announced. It was a communal ritual read also by Talibah, who joined with her drum. It the background was the music of Elliott Bey's synthesizer. Rashidah added dance numbers. The group held up poster pictures of Oscar Grant.
Mechelle LaChaux performed Parable of the Cell Phone. The audience went stone wild. Mechelle is an actress and singer, so her linguistic flexibility is unmatched. Marvin X's language will put Tyler Perry in pre-school. Critic Wanda Sabir said his language will "knock the socks off old ladies." Well, there were several senior women in the audience who didn't miss a linguistic beat.
We think the hottest piece was Parable of the Woman in the Box, performed by choreographer/dancer Raynetta Rayzetta, accompanied by Rashidah. Raynetta is X's favorite choreographer/dancer. She had the audience inside the box with her, as someone said.
X ended with his poem You Don't Know Me, accompanied by a Rashidah Sebreen original song.
White America has discovered Marvin X! Yes, fifty years later!
The USA's Rumi...the politics of Baraka, the ecstasy of Hafiz, the wisdom of Saadi....
--Bob Holman, Bowery Poetry Club, New York City
If you want to learn about motiviation and inspiration, don't spend all that money going to workshops and seminars, just go stand at 14th and Broadway, downtown Oakland, and watch Marvin X at work. He's Plato teaching on the streets of Oakland.