Moxie Theatre, 6663 El Cajon Boulevard, Suite N, Rolando
$20 - $27
Moxie Theatre must close its outstanding production of Trouble in Mind this Sunday, February 22.
A big “what if?” hovers over Alice Childress’ 1955 backstage comedy-drama. Trouble won an Obie Award for excellence off-Broadway. Childress directed the original at the Greenwich Mews Theatre, NYC. Producers wanted to mount it on Broadway but wanted changes they assumed she’d be glad to make. And why not? She’d go down in history as the first female African-American playwright with a professional staging on the Great White Way.
The producers said change the title, and give it a happier ending. Childress refused, and the honor went to her close friend Lorraine Hansberry (both studied under Paul Robeson) for A Raisin in the Sun in 1959.
So “what if” Childress made the changes? And compromised her art? No way — even if it meant historical AND commercial glory.
Al Manners, the director needing a hit show, means well. He also assumes he’s the epitome of interracial understanding (that’s why he’s staging the anti-lynching play Chaos in Belleville). He’s also democratic in the ways he lambastes his entire cast.
Wiletta Mayer, an African-American actor, has stereotyped minor roles only. Now she has her Big Chance to star, but the director has her say and do things her character never would. Should Wiletta go along, as some other cast members do. Or should she, like Alice Childress, speak up and out right now???
E. Faye Butler, who played Wiletta in Chicago, said: “No matter how far you think you’ve come, there’s always somebody that wants to take you right back. Why are we still telling [Childress’] story? There are other stories to be told besides maids and servants. I think everybody needs to see this piece because it reminds us where we lie.”