Buffalo Soldier, the opening production of Seattle's Group Theatre's 19th season, explores unsung heroes who settled the West.
Mitch Hale's drama, running through Nov. 10, follows three freed black soldiers on the Texas plains who capture a Comanche Chief and must then decide between their marching orders and their principles. The title, "Buffalo Soldier," comes from the name American Indians gave black soldiers because of their dark, coarse hair, and out of respect for their speed and tenacity.
Oddly, the inspiration for this post-Civil War tale came from Viet Nam. Mitch Hale wrote the play after experiencing Group Theatre's 1987 production of the Vietnam drama, Tracers.
"My goal in writing Buffalo Soldier," Hale said, "was to develop a richer understanding of a society...built on the slavery of one people to commit genocide on another people. At the same time, I was eager to explore the realities of our shared humanity and create a hero's story without a villain." (The play also studies a white officer in charge coming to terms with his own cowardice.)
Director Tim Bond says of Soldier, "[It's] one of the few stories that identifies the quest for freedom as the bond uniting American Indians and African-Americans." Starring as the three soldiers are Mark Chamberlin, Bill Hall and Daniel Coles. Mark Berry plays the white sergeant, Kris Cochran portrays Indian Chief Quanah Parker. Jose' Carrasquillo is the artistic director of The Group Theatre (not to be confused with the landmark Harold Clurman "method acting" troupe), which, in this "Artistic Legacy Season," will offer three shows that reflect the importance of multicultural change and celebration.
The 1995 NAACP Best Play-Award winning Buffalo Soldier is now in previews and opens Oct. 16. For tickets and information, call (206) 441-1299.
-- By David Lefkowitz