Nearly three dozen San Francisco-area theatres have joined forces for a Juneteenth live stream reading of Vincent Terrell Durham’s Polar Bears, Black Boys & Prairie Fringed Orchids. The special event is part of the Juneteenth Theatre Justice Project, to raise money for funding Black theatre projects in America.
The live stream begins 7 PM PT June 19 on PlayGround-sf.org. The stream is free to the public, but donations are requested. Proceeds will benefit a GoFundMe that aims to raise $1 million for Black theatres.
Presented as part of PlayGround Zoom Fest, the presentation is directed by Peter J. Kuo and features Jennifer Bradford, Britney Frazier, Rodney Earl Jackson Jr., Carrie Paff, Patrick Russell, Gabriel Q. Solomon, and Michael Ray Wisely.
Originally co-commissioned by PlayGround and Planet Earth Arts, Polar Bears, Black Boys & Prairie Fringed Orchids follows a liberal white couple who open the doors of their renovated Harlem brownstone to host a cocktail party for a Black Lives Matter activist, his gay white lover, proud Black Harlemite Shemeka, and the mother of a slain 12 year-old Black boy.
The play debuted in 2019 at the National New Play Network National Showcase of New Plays and was presented in Stanford Repertory Theatre’s 2019 Summer Festival.
“This collaboration of theatres is exactly what theatre was meant to do: uniting for change, responding to the current moment, raising awareness and resources to support marginalized communities, and amplifying the voices of artists of color,” says Aldo Billingslea, producer and leader of Juneteenth Theatre Justice Project. “With a perfect blend of wit, pathos, and humor, this play speaks to some of the most pressing subjects of our time—gentrification, white fragility, the sustainability of the planet, the Black Lives Matter movement, and police violence against Black bodies.”
This reading is co-presented by TheatreWorks Silicon Valley, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, American Conservatory Theater, Marin Theatre Company, California Shakespeare Theater, San Francisco Playhouse, Magic Theater, Shotgun Players, Lorraine Hansberry Theatre, African-American Shakespeare Company, PlayGround, Planet Earth Arts, Aurora Theatre Company, Center REPertory Company, Central Works, City Lights Theatre Company, Crowded Fire Theater, Custom Made Theatre Company, Cutting Ball Theater, Golden Thread Productions, Livermore Shakespeare Festival, Marin Shakespeare Company, National Center for New Plays, Pear Theatre, Perspective Theatre, San Jose Stage Company, San Francisco Shakespeare Festival, Santa Cruz County Actor’s Theatre, Santa Cruz Shakespeare, Silicon Valley Shakespeare, Stanford Repertory Theater, and TheatreFIRST.
Additionally, theatres in nearly a dozen other regions—including Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Houston, Seattle, Tampa, San Diego, and Albany—are working on mounting similar readings with local casts.