“It’s a shame that our fathers and mothers are killed and we can’t see them anymore.”
And on one evening, Zianna Oliphant had enough.
If that name doesn’t spring to mind, that’s okay. All you have to know is that this 9-year-old little girl channeled every inch of fear, anxiety and pathos as she stood and spoke to a packed Charlotte, North Carolina city council meeting last September six days after the fatal police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott.
With tears streaming down her face and a voice that quivered with pain and fatigue, Zianna spoke from her small but broken heart.
“It’s a shame that we have to go to their graveyard and bury them. And we have tears. We shouldn’t have tears. We need our fathers and mothers to be by our side.”
Tyrone Davis is one of those fathers. His son is two-years-old, born on the day Darren Wilson, the police officer who fatally shot Michael Brown, learned he would not face any charges.
The pain of seeing yet another officer cleared of facing any charges was a bit too much for Davis to process, especially since he was holding his new baby, a child who will be sat down by his father someday to hear an explanation of how the world works as a black person in America.
“What’s important to note is that this is not new,” said Davis, who works in American Conservatory Theatre’s education and community programs department. “The experience of seeing violence against black people is not new. I’ve heard stories of my great-grandfather with the history of lynching black folks in this country.
“What is new are camera phones and video and just to be able to see it. It’s been a reality and we’ve have to deal with it for so long, and I am beyond frustrated.”
This critical action has become the production “Every 28 Hours,” two one-day festivals and a full production that opens a few days later. The festivals are taking place on Tuesday, Oct. 18th at ACT’s Strand Theater, and on Wednesday, Oct. 19th at Berkeley Repertory Theatre’s Osher Studio. The full production opens at Faultline Theatre Company in San Francisco on Oct. 21st.
According to a press release, the show is Co-created by Dominic D’Andrea of the One-Minute Play Festival and Claudia Alick of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, “Every 28 Hours” is a national partnership focused on the widely shared and contested statistic that a black person is killed every 28 hours by a vigilante, security guard, or the police in the United States. “Every 28 Hours” consists of 75 one-minute plays inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, with participation from artists across the nation.
As a theatre practitioner and a person who is passionate about what kind of future world he will leave to his son, Davis knew he had to do more than watch a literal daily reminder of the minefield that exists in the United States. So he found collaborators and others who also wanted to talk, people of all colors and backgrounds, and they began to converse. A lot.
“Let’s put folks together in a room and create a vehicle for conversation,” said Davis. “How can we move forward in society?”
Faultline Theater Company’s co-artistic director Rose Oser was more than willing to engage in the conversation. She did not hesitate to approach Tyrone and ask how her company can be a part of the proceedings.
“As an artist, the project made me realize I have to say something, and that we have a certain responsibility to respond in the world, of being respectful to the black community, and in a larger way, acknowledge that black lives matter,” said Oser. “A lot of people are saying that, which is great, but we need to take the next step to figure out what we can do.”
Both Oser and Davis were unsure if this project is one that might bring about hope in a broken system. But they are adamant about the goal of what this could bring about, and that’s change.
“We’ve had different conversations among cast members and it does feel like catharsis,” said Oser. “It’s not about changing the country or changing the world, but it’s about changing the individual who makes their way into the theatre.”
“Racism is a condition of the heart, and we certainly hope to change people’s hearts,” said Davis. “I believe in ‘each one, teach one.’ If I can help change one person, it may be just one person, but then that person teachers another person. That’s very important and I hope for that. “
WHAT TO KNOW IF YOU GO
Tuesday, October 18, at 7 p.m.
The Rueff at A.C.T.’s Strand Theater
1127 Market Street
San Francisco, CA 94103
RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org
Wednesday, October 19, at 7 p.m.
Berkeley Rep’s Osher Studio
2055 Center Street
Berkeley, CA 94704
RSVP at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/every-28-hours-a-bay-area-collaboration-tickets-27847954983
Faultline Theater, in collaboration with A.C.T., Campo Santo, Crowded Fire Theater, and Lorraine Hansberry Theatre
October 21–November 12
Thursday–Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
144 Taylor Street
San Francisco, CA 94102
RSVP at www.faultlinetheater.com