National Black Theatre has teamed up with Hi-ARTS for the world premiere of The Peculiar Patriot, written and performed by Liza Jessie Peterson with direction by Talvin Wilks. The multimedia solo show, now in performances, is a profound and critical look at the national mass incarceration crisis.
Peterson was inspired to write the play by her own work in New York City prisons over the last two decades. The Peculiar Patriot looks at the business of the criminal justice system (those who are profiting), examines the human impact, and shines a light on the racial disparities inherent within.
“Mass incarceration is slavery re-mixed. As soon as you see the handcuffs go ka-klink, you'll hear the cash register go cha-ching. It is unconscionable that there is a profit motive for building prison beds and making sure they’re filled with bodies disproportionately Black and brown,” says Peterson. “This is America’s most urgent human rights crisis happening right before our very eyes, and I am compelled as a concerned citizen artist to bring urgent attention to the issue.”
Peterson, an actor, writer, poet, and activist, began developing the play in 2004. She has performed excerpts from The Peculiar Patriot in over 35 penitentiaries across the country, and opened for Angela Davis at a recent Columbia University conference on mass incarceration. Peterson was also featured in Ava DuVernay’s Oscar-nominated documentary The 13th.
The Peculiar Patriot is scheduled to run through October 1 at Barbara Ann Teer’s National Black Theatre, located at 2031 Fifth Avenue, New York. For tickets and more information visit NationalBlackTheatre.org, call NBT at (212) 722-3800, or go to NBT's box office, open from 1 to 6 PM.