'brownsville song' opens Dobama's 2017-18 season
Dobama Theatre opens its 58th season with the Cleveland premiere of "brownsville song (b-side for tray)" by Kimber Lee. Written in poetic language, "brownsville song" is the story of Tray, a high school senior and amateur boxer. The play moves gracefully back and forth in time to reveal what happened before and after the tragic incident that changes Tray’s family forever.
The inspiration for the play came to Lee in 2012 when she read a news report about a young black man who was the victim of random gang violence in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, N.Y. The story, which contained very few details, lodged in the playwright’s head.
“I kept thinking about this boy’s family and loved ones,” she said, “and about the tremendous loss of life in some of our communities, and how easy it is in this sound-byte world for these losses to disappear from our consciousness . . . if you look a certain way and live in a certain zip code, your life is worth less, you matter less, and this wall of silence descends around the loss.”
“This is not your typical sad, tragic story of a dream deferred,” said director Jimmie Woody. “Instead, we see a celebration of life. And although this play takes on the important issues of gang violence and grieving in a way that makes the viewer reflect [on his or her] own community and the need for positive alternatives for our youth, it is also—at its core—a play about family.”
It was important to Woody to encourage a natural and relaxed rehearsal environment to enable the cast to get to know one another and to create a sense of family. He even had the cast play double-dutch jump rope to help them work together as a team.
"brownsville song (b-side for tray)" features actress Cindy Chang, who has appeared on “America’s Got Talent” and “Chicago Fire.”
“It means a great deal to me as a Korean-American actress to be playing a Korean-American role written by a Korean-American playwright,” said Chang. “It is not often you find an opportunity like this. I hope audiences will see that my character, Merrell, is like anyone else: human and not perfect.”
The cast also includes Kalim Hill, Lisa Louise Langford, Jabri Little, and Logan Williams.
"brownsville song" runs Sept. 1–24, Thursdays through Sundays at Dobama Theatre, 2340 Lee Road in Cleveland Heights. Tickets are $29–$32, with senior, student and military discounts available. Tickets for the preview performances on Aug. 30 and Aug. 31, at 7:30 p.m., are $15. The pay-as-you-can performance is Sept. 3 at 7:30 p.m. For more information, and to purchase tickets, call the box office at 216-932-3396. Tickets are also available online at www.dobama.org.
Jonathan Wilhelm is the managing director of Dobama Theatre.