The LA Times reports that "for his turn before Reagan, the actor [Vereen] decided to pay tribute to the pioneering African American entertainer Bert Williams — in blackface. Williams had been forced to don blackface on stage during vaudeville productions in the early 20th century. Vereen, in homage, did the same."
The performance is described as such: "Edgar Arceneaux’s first live work, Until, Until, Until…, investigates the infamous 1981 performance of Broadway legend Ben Vereen, televised nationally as part of Ronald Reagan's inaugural celebration. Intended as an homage to vaudevillian Bert Williams—America’s first mainstream black entertainer—the final 5 minutes of the performance were censored for the television audience, causing Vereen’s biting commentary on the history of segregation and racist stereotypes in performance to be lost on viewers at home. Until, Until, Until… is based on the footage that never aired that night. Arceneaux’s commission, a mise-en-scène of the inaugural party, foregrounds the past, illuminating the enduring presence and impact of history in the present. The piece questions the truth of past narratives, and creates an opportunity to reconsider our collective understanding of historic events. The performance immerses the audience in the scenery of the presidential celebration, where the relationships between past and present, experience and memory, and fantasy and reality are blurred as they are filtered through time and the television screen."
Until, Until, Until... is directed by Edgar Arceneaux and curated by Adrienne Edwards.
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