Aleshea Harris’ What to Send Up When It Goes Down officially opens September 28 at Playwrights Horizons. The production, which began previews September 24, kicks off the 2021–2022 season of the Off-Broadway theatre company.
The cast includes Rachel Christopher (Bad News!) as One/Made, Ugo Chukwu (Do You Feel Anger?) as Six/Miss, Kambi Gathesha (Romeo and Juliet) as Two, Cyndii Johnson (BLKS) as Four, Denise Manning (Daddy) as Eight/Song Leader, Javon Q. Minter (Julio Down By the Schoolyard) as Seven, Adrianna Mitchell (runboyrun) as Three, and Beau Thom (A Christmas Carol) as Five/Man/Driver. Christopher, Chukwu, Manning, Minter, and Thom performed the work when it was presented at Brooklyn Academy of Music this past summer.
The BAM co-production is directed by Whitney White (Our Dear Dead Drug Lord), in association with The Movement Theatre Company. Setting out to disrupt the pervasiveness of anti-Blackness and celebrate the inherent value of Black people, Harris’ play blurs the boundaries between actors and audiences, offering a space for catharsis, discussion, reflection, and healing.
“This piece is first and foremost for Black people, but it’s also for everybody,” says Harris. “It came from a space of feeling lonely, angry, and gaslit, and needing to be with people and do something that’s activated—and thinking other people might as well. Because the issue is one of great urgency, I created a participatory piece; I didn’t want the audience to be allowed to passively engage with it. This is a ritual that asks people to participate because I wanted it to be a space of community, and I wanted to allow us to stop and acknowledge commonalities and differences in experiences.”
The production features scenic design by Yu-Hsuan Chen, costume design by Qween Jean, lighting design by Cha See, sound design by Sinan Refik Zafar, and original songs by Harris. Genevieve Ortiz is the production stage manager, and Carolina Arboleda is assistant stage manager.
What to Send Up When It Goes Down is part of Playwrights Horizons’ Redux Series, which expands audience reach for vital new plays that premiered to limited runs elsewhere. Performances are currently scheduled through October 17.
The Playwrights Horizons season also includes the New York premiere of Sylvia Khoury’s Selling Kabul (November 17–December 23) and the world premieres of Dave Harris’ Tambo & Bones (January 12–February 20, 2022), Sanaz Toossi’s Wish You Were Here (April 13–May 22), and Will Arbery’s Corsicana (June 2–July 10).
(Updated September 28, 2021)