__‘TOPDOG/underdog’ will be performed by William and Mary Theatre and IPAX__
p. Thursday, William and Mary Theatre and International Performance Arts Exchange premiere their joint effort and final show of the season, “TOPDOG/underdog.” This production has a double cast, which includes Lewis Feemster ’08 and Jack Stuart ’09 both in the role of Lincoln, and Jason Blackwell ’10 and Michael Harris playing Booth. Professor Francis Tanglao-Aguas of the theater department directs.
p. The play is a drama by Suzan-Lori Parks about two brothers whose rivalry is reflected in their ironic names, Lincoln and Booth. It premiered off-Broadway starring Jeffery Wright and Don Cheadle in 2001 and was later produced on Broadway in 2002.
Parks explained the play’s development to NPR in 2001: “It chose me. I wasn’t planning or plotting or scheming:”
p. In the introduction to the Dramatists Play Service edition of the script, Parks says bluntly, “This is a play about family wounds and healing. Welcome to the family.”
p. According to Stuart, IPAX productions “bring together students that may not be part of the Mainstage family and to give them an opportunity to perform and produce plays that they wanted to do.”
IPAX’s mission is “to reach out to the audience and widen their worlds and let them glimpse into worlds that they may never encounter in their lifetime,” according to Producing Director Edward Hong ’09.
p. Hong, who doubles as the stage manager for this production, continued: “‘TOPDOG/underdog’ fulfills this mission by showing such a world that most of us will never experience, a world of poverty and desperate times.” He explains, “The world of ‘TOPDOG/underdog’ is a world that is presented raw and upfront with unapologetic honesty and biting humor.”
p. The play is written to appeal to a multitude of people, not the typical audience.
p. “You wouldn’t normally see a play of this style on the mainstage in my opinion,” Stuart said. “The audience should know that these characters are a product of the society that we live in. They are creatures of tragic proportions that are disillusioned and angry at the institution that has been forcing them to live on the edge of humanity.”
p. Feemster ’08 said: “For me, this performance is a gift, marking the first time in this department that I have had an opportunity to play an African-American character rather than a ‘colorblind role.’” The play uses race to make the message of the play even stronger.
p. “I want the audience to feel a connection with the struggles of the characters, and more importantly I want the audience to appreciate the words of the mastermind, Suzan Lori-Parks,” Harris said.
p. “I don’t want to influence anyone before they have a chance to see the piece for themselves … This piece is so incredible and multifaceted, so everyone will take away something completely different. Such is art,” Feemster said.
p. “The characters in this comic tragedy are defined by their history, but throughout the course of the play I believe the characters find ways to break free from the attachments of their history,” Harris said.
p. An example of characters’ relationships with history can be seen in the allusion of names to a grander historical narrative. Do the young brothers face a fate that parallels that of their namesakes?
p. “To know if we are defined by history, we must confront history. By watching this show, I want the audience to answer this question for themselves,” Hong said elaborating.
p. The show runs April 10-12 at 8 p.m., with a matinee at 2 p.m. on April 12. All performances are in the PBK Studio Theatre. Tickets are $5 and can be purchased at the PBK Box Office.