Mosaic Theater Company of DC Unveils Hooded, or Being Black for Dummies. Full Production Set for World Premiere in January 2017
One of the most highly anticipated new plays of the 2016-17 season—Hooded, or Being Black for Dummies—had its first public staged reading on Monday as part of The Kennedy Center’s 15th Annual Page-to-Stage Festival, held over the Labor Day Weekend in Washington, DC.
The play will have its world premiere in a fully-staged production in January 2017, when Mosaic Theater Company of DC will bring it to life as the fourth play of its second season.
Directed by Serge Seiden, Co-Founder of Mosaic as well as its Managing Director and Producer, the reading is nearly as active as a finished play, with some hilarious skits involving school girls taking “selfies”(all the female roles are played by Emma Lou Hébert, Elizabeth Kitsos-Kang, and Madeline Burrows) and a recurring joke that involves the narrator instructing the audience when to laugh. (“Laughing when the sign is down is racist,” he says, glowering at the audience, which of course laughs at all the “wrong” places.)
The play is set in the instantly-recognizable Maryland town of Achievement Heights, where two teenage boys meet in the local jail, both having been detained for the sinister crime of “being while black.”
One of the boys is Marquis. Played by Keith Royal Smith, an ambitious and highly privileged prep school student in khakis, white shirt and tie, Marquis spouts Nietzche and modestly attributes his sense of entitlement to the fact that both his parents went to Princeton. He himself plans to go to law school, like his mother.
The other boy is Tru, a presumed drop-out from Baltimore, wearing the ubiquitous hooded sweat shirt of the inner city. Instead of Nietzche, he spouts Tupac Shakur, and in fact—in one of the funniest riffs in the play—he actually teaches Marquis how to write rap lyrics.
They are both released by Marquis’s well-meaning but naïve mother who weaves a cliché-filled fantasy about Tru’s woefully impoverished background.
In an effort to help Marquis to reclaim his inner “blackness,” Tru (Jeremy Keith Hunter) writes a 164 page manual called Being Black for Dummies, full of advice on how to speak correctly. Examples are “finish every sentence with the word bitch,” “use the word nigguh whenever talking to another black” and assume that “no matter what a girl says, she’s talking about your dick.”
Of course, teaching Marquis how to behave like someone from the ‘hood’ is not easy. In fact, Tru likens it to being “a collie trying to herd sheep in the attic.”
But he perseveres, and the two embark on a journey that is the substance of Playwright Tearrance Arvelle Chisholm’s exploration of two intersecting worlds. Dubbed a “rising star” by Variety Magazine, Chisholm’s last work, B’rer Cotton, was seen in DC at Catholic University.
Hooded was presented at Page-to-Stage as a one-act play.
Hooded, or Being Black for Dummies will play from January 25 through February 19, 2017 at Mosaic Theater Company of DC, performing in the Lang Theatre at Atlas Performing Arts Center – 1333 H Street, NE, in Washington, DC. For tickets, call the box office at (202) 399-7993 ext. 2, or purchase them online.