Injustice Is Global 

The tragic story of Stephen Lawrence comes to the TheatreFIRST stage.

Here in the United States, Rodney King and Amadou Diallo are the names we associate with tragedies that have forced the public to assess lingering antiblack sentiments. In Britain, the name is Stephen Lawrence, a quiet young man stabbed to death in 1993 by six white youths as he waited for the bus. Nine years later, because of a series of legal missteps, the perpetrators have yet to be prosecuted. It's a bitter story, one that TheatreFIRST artistic director Clive Chafer knew would resonate with American audiences. So he's taken the script that Richard Norton-Taylor edited from 11,000 pages worth of court transcripts, called in director Randall Stuart, and brought together the largest cast outside a musical we're likely to see this season for the US premiere of The Colour of Justice.

Vivacious, thoughtful director Randall Stuart, who describes himself as a big fan of "activating the text," has reshaped the play to make it both more epic in presentation and more representative of people from all over the world. Stuart specializes in "style plays," such as those of Shakespeare and the Greeks. "We have someone from every continent except Antarctica," he says of his cast, which ranges in age from ten to "about sixty." Many of the roles that were played in London by men will be played here by women, and the text has been streamlined to bring out all the gradations of people's thoughts and behavior while remaining truthful and clear.

The Colour of Justice, which opens May 3 at the Oakland YWCA's Ehmann Hall, promises to be an interesting theatrical event for many reasons. It's much different from the small, intimate shows TheatreFIRST tends to stage. Chafer and Stuart will utilize the graceful Julia Morgan-designed building's space in a new and daring way. Chafer is making a concerted effort to attract audience members from communities that might not ordinarily come to a TheatreFIRST production. He also promises that this play, even though it is based on actual testimony, will not be your standard stodgy courtroom drama, but will engage the full attention and participation of the audience. Finally, it's a show that could get people within our own community to talk honestly about racism -- before another black man's name becomes a grim symbol.


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