Run, don’t walk, to Freedom Theatre to see ‘The Ballad of Trayvon Martin’. If I may fast forward right to the end, the play got a standing ovation from a black Philly crowd who notoriously are tough on giving love at live performances unless they are over-the-top good.
How ironic that the Trayvon play debuted on the same week George Zimmerman tries to sell the gun he shot Trayvon with. Walking into the play with renewed disgust of Zimmerman and enhanced sympathy for Trayvon only accentuated my thirst for some semblance of understanding of what Trayvon means to the social fabric of America.
Even before the play began, young Freedom Theatre students performed in the outer lobby a piece called, ‘I am Trayvon Martin’, combining individual acts of soliloquy, spoken word, rap, and song. It turns out that they were only a mild tease to what awaited us inside the theater.
In real life, we don’t know much about Trayvon. The play helps provide a backstory to who he was by seeing and hearing him describe his thoughts, hopes, and dreams, but most of what we learn about Trayvon comes from his parents. The pain experienced from Trayvon’s parents is the most emotionally charged element of the play. If you can get through the 2nd set without shedding a tear, there is something very wrong with you.
George Zimmerman was portrayed as a near psychopath. His lines weren’t something made up by the playwright, but much of them were actual quotes we’ve all read in the papers and seen on the news. There’s nothing to like about the man.
Artistically and technically, the play was genius. There were no set changes as the entire play was presented on a near bare stage with only a set of stairs which led to a gate, a covered scaffold on each side of the stage that supported a projection screen with a platform on top, and a small table they occasionally set up when needed.
Everything was in black and white – and shades of gray, including the lighting and wardrobe.
Live Tweets were displayed on the projection screens and read aloud by the actors throughout the play showing us the role social media is playing in Trayvon’s situation and also reminding us what certain people had to say in support of #Trayvon or #Zimmerman.
Other than the actor playing Trayvon, the other five actors took on numerous roles. As if that wasn’t impressive enough, each actor had at least one very long soliloquy that showed their professional acting chops.
And then there were the two male hip-hop dancers. These two young men nearly danced throughout the entire play with flair, grace, expression, and poetry of motion. The play opened with them dancing for at least 10 minutes as news reels of Emmett Till and Trayvon filtered through the still closed curtain. I expected a lot of music in the play, but there was very little. The dancing was a perfect substitute.
‘The Ballad of Trayvon Martin’ was nothing that I expected. What I do expect is that this play will be a huge hit as it travels across the country. You can say that you saw it in its infancy when you catch a performance this week at Freedom Theatre.
Wed 7pm. Thursday 11am -7pm. Saturday 3-8pm. Sunday 3pm. $20 & $35.
1346 North Broad Street at Master, Philadelphia, PA, 19121. 267-209-6050