An Octoroon by Branden Jacob Jenkins (BJJ) is a provocative play that challenges our collective perceptions and bias around constructions of race, gender, class and ethnicity. It asks us to interrogate the external masks of performance that we sometimes put on or are projected onto us in order to see the internal core of our humanity. The play constantly asks the audience to imagine themselves in the role of ‘the other’ in order to deconstruct the destruction that is racial and ethnic stereotypes. The backdrop of the play is situated within the historical, cultural and theatrical context of slavery, minstrelsy and melodrama.
BJJ wrote this contemporary adaptation of Dion Boucicault’s The Octoroon, which was first presented in 1859. Through humor, intellect and empathy, he asks us to consider who has the power to write certain stories and who is included and excluded in certain stories and in history. How does the story change when told from a completely different perspective? And what legacy of identity do we pass on from one generation to the next? Recently, I was moved to see the relevancy of this core conflict reflected in a powerful poem written by a 13-year-old poet who just happens to be my daughter. Like BJJ, the poem pushes against something that she feels the world is telling her. It is further proof, as Sondheim writes, that Children Will Listen. An Octoroon asks us to take seriously what we are saying and who gets to say it…
The organizers of the ITSC 2018 Radical Fictions conference invite audience members to relay below just how they may have experienced some of the themes of this play in their own lives, and any other thoughts on the story.
Free admission. Reservations recommended. (RSVP Here)