Sunday, June 4, 2017

Black in the Box at Fringe.

Black in the Box starring Marlon Andrew Burnlet was held in the red venue. The screen at the back of the stage flickered with static, and the actor suddenly was thrust out from behind the screen. He would recover and make his way back only to be trust our again. Audio of slave auctions and viscous bidding filled the room. Whips snapped.

Ultimately he dragged out a large wooden box wrapped in chains. It was heavy judging from his gestures and the sweat that flowed down his back. He struggled to unwrap the box from its chains and then he looked inside and froze in horror. The audience couldn't see what was inside. He stepped inside and the screen flickered backwards the dates jumping back decades and hundreds of years at at a time. In this was he immersed us all in the world of his past ancestors, reliving the lives of those who came before.

Slaves struggled and toiled with whippings and starvation as their only reward. Families were ripped apart. Ultimately the Civil War brought with it the hope of freedom. The actor wore a tattered uniform and fired a gun at his oppressors. However this hope of idealistic freedom was short lived as racism meant that jobs weren't much better after the war.

Just being able to wear shoes was a luxury and as soon as he put the shoes on he began to tap dance, feeling the rhythms of his past. Vaudeville offered a place to earn a buck through dance but it was grueling work. Hecklers from the audience treated him like a dancing monkey, an oddity. Between performances he took out a hip flask and sipped booze. His pants were piss stained. Throughout, the actor wore masks that were grotesque visions of how blacks were seen by their oppressors.

This was serious and strong theater. I felt uncomfortable at times, perhaps guilty of my white privilege. I glanced around the audience to see that there were no black reporters in the press preview. The actor threw himself into the rolls, sweating profusely and exerting himself in every way. Historic photos reminded me of every phase of my country's inhumanity to man. Several hundred years later that inhumanity remains. An insane man can use an assault rifle to gun down dancing patrons a dozen at a time, blacks, whites and Latinos.  Progress is slow and painful.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

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