A Guide to Rikers Island and a Hamilton Landmark You May Have Missed

“Why me? Why me? Why?!”

This is the reaction of former boxer turned actor Rich Roy in his autobiography A White Man’s Guide To Rikers Island (written with Eric C. Webb) when he learned that the pedestrian he had run over on his way home drunk from a evening with his friends was dead. .

Dillon John Collins
(Photos: Ruby Max)

And while his self-centered reaction doesn’t exactly endear him to the public, it’s admittedly honest and down-to-earth. How many of us have also done something stupid and reckless and can forget about it the next day because we were lucky not to have fatally injured an innocent bystander?

Running through April 3 at the Gene Frankel Theater (general admission, $35), it’s a play that can toy with your emotions a bit and is likely to hit people of different races in different ways. Roy, who begins the piece as himself before Dillon John Collins takes over as his younger version for most of its ninety minutes, is very open about the white privilege that he has. earned more than two years of freedom before his trial began and allowed his lawyer to settle for a year in prison, which would presumably be reduced to six months.

But once that stay on Rikers begins, he’s part of a population he cites as 92% black and Hispanic and 85% awaiting trial because they can’t afford bail.

“And that empty, undeserved privilege is what makes everyone rightly hate your guts just by looking at you.”

This is not a play about being a white victim, nor ignoring that the real victims of the story are the dead pedestrian and the thousands of inmates who might not be imprisoned if not for a system widely recognized as being racist. . But it’s about being in the unfamiliar position of being a targeted minority; although he knows the exact date when, if he manages to overcome everything, he will regain his unearned privilege.

The voiceovers provide additional characters – more functional than developed – including Rich’s transgender cellmate Shivon and fellow blockmate Saddam, who help him use his family’s money to fund a scheme that benefits to other prisoners, thereby gaining some protection. Further protection comes when his commanding officer recruits him to write a column for the prison newspaper; a tongue-in-cheek survival guide for white prisoners that became the basis for this play.

This is not a nuanced play. The storytelling is straightforward and straightforward as the narrative continues to emphasize its message of social justice. And just to make sure the message gets through, Roy returns at the end to deliver an impassioned speech calling for solutions to systemic racism and white privilege.

Collins, who made her stage debut after three years of training, also gave a very straightforward and straightforward performance under the direction of Thomas G. Waites; his energy, athleticism and stage charisma carry him through a marathon role.

But it’s the frankness of the script and performances that gives the evening a sense of authenticity and sincerity. You might not expect it from the title (I certainly didn’t), but A White Man’s Guide To Rikers Island turns out to be a determined militant play.

Thanks to Lin-Manuel Miranda…

…they say there has been a noticeable increase in tourism to New York landmarks like Trinity Church Cemetery – the final resting place of Alexander Hamilton, his wife Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton, their son Philip, the sister of Elizabeth Angelica Schuyler Church and colonial super spy Hercules Mulligan (They say Mulligan was especially hard to bury because every time they laid him down he got up again) and the Morris-Jumel mansion; General Washington’s former uptown headquarters where Aaron Burr married his wealthy landlady, Eliza Jumel.

Sunday Morning Michael Dale: A Guide to Rikers Island and a Hamilton Landmark You May Have MissedI recently noticed another great site for history buffs and musical theater fans. Until recently, I only knew the building at 4 St. Marks Place as the home of this iconic East Village Trash & Vaudeville vintage clothing store, but a plaque that was put up in the first year of the Pandemic notes that the 1831 Federal-style townhouse was once the home of widow Elizabeth Hamilton and her children Alexander, Jr. and Eliza.

But wait, there’s more. See where it says the building once housed “experimental theaters”? In 1955, Julie Bovasso founded the non-profit Tempo Playhouse there and, at the first Obie Awards ceremony, was recognized for her performance in the American premiere of Jean Genet’s The Maids company.

The space was eventually renamed New Bowery Theater when it became a showcase for underground films, then was transformed into the Bridge Theatre, a contemporary dance house which closed shortly after accusations of obscenity and slander. indecency were filed (and eventually dropped) due to the performance. of an anti-war play titled LBJ, which included the burning of an American flag.

Read these plaques as you walk around town. You never know what story you are going through.

Just before cinemas start closing in March 2020…

…one of Off-Broadway’s last high-profile openings was Lauren Yee’s excellent Cambodian rock band; a mix of fact and fiction about the popularity of American rebel music in Phnom Penh in the early 1970s, which became illegal when the departure of American troops prompted the invasion of the Khmer Rouge, taking genocidal control of the country.

One of the survivors of this murderous regime is the mother of playwright Sam Chanse, whose intriguing “What You Are Now” (the lowercase title is the playwright’s preference) is set in contemporary times and deals with many problems she grew up with. regarding his mother’s behavior as her mind sorts through her memories.

Sunday Morning Michael Dale: A Guide to Rikers Island and a Hamilton Landmark You May Have Missed
Pisay Pao, Sonnie Brown and Robert Lee Leng
(Photo: Jeremy Daniel)

In director Steve Cosson’s first production, which marks the reopening of the Ensemble Studio Theater (until April 3, general admission $30, students/seniors $25), Pisay Pao plays Pia, the daughter of Chantrea (Sonnie Brown ), a survivor of the Khmer Rouge who, like many Cambodians, emigrated to Lowell, Massachusetts. At the time, she was pregnant with Pia and accompanied by her young son Darany, now a rambunctious, free-spirited adult played by Robert Lee Lang.

Pia became a neurological scientist, dedicated to researching how the mind processes memories of traumatic experiences as an assemblage of details that can be involuntarily altered when recalled, rather than simply copied and pasted. as a precise whole.

Pia discusses various experiences involving rats’ reactions to stimuli, and alongside it we see Chantrea’s reaction when Darany plays a Cambodian rock recording, given to him by Siobhan, the Irish/Cambodian woman he is dating.

Lasting about 100 minutes, the play alternates between family/immigration issues and scientific studies without feeling complete at either end. But even so, at this early stage, “what you are now” is worth watching and will surely stimulate conversation about viewers’ memories.

Curtain line…

I was really excited to hear the slogan “Oklahoma! Reinvented for the 21st Century”, until I realized it meant the musical and not the state.

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