Edited by Randi Bjornstad

On Friday, Juneteenth, (June 19th), Lane County theater artists will stand with the Juneteenth Theatre Justice Project and dozens of other theater communities throughout the nation to respond to the civil uprising that has come as a reaction to the recent murders by police of black citizens George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and many others before them.

The event consists of simultaneous, free readings of the play, Polar Bears, Black Boys & Prairie Fringed Orchids by playwright Vincent Terrell Durham.

It is an online, one-night-only event, which will take place at 7 p.m. on June 19 and will be live-streamed via Zoom, using access provided through the Oregon Contemporary Theatre website at octheatre.org/juneteenth.

Supporting local theaters include The Very Little Theatre, Cottage Theatre, Lane Community College Theatre, Oregon Contemporary Theatre, and Minority Voices Theatre (MVT).

Eugene actor/director Stanley Coleman will direct the local reading of Polar Bears, Black Boys & Prairie Fringed Orchids. It will be performed by local actors Paul Dunkel, Hershell Norwood, Retoyia Ronkel, Janna Slack, Johnathon Thompson, Kizzi van Lake, and Kory Weimer.

Here’s the plot: A liberal white couple who lived in a renovated Harlem brownstone in New York City host a cocktail party for a Black Lives activist and his gay white lover, a sistah named Shemeka, and the mother of a murdered 12-year-old black boy.

The evening generates emotional debates on a variety of topics, ranging from underweight polar bears, the actress Lana Turner, saving the planet to gentrification of urban neighborhoods, racial identity, and threats to the lives of young black males.

The play uses both humor and drama to examine some of the most current and challenging subjects in U.S. society, including white privilege, historical black suppression, and racially related police violence.

The performance is intended for mature audiences.

Playwright Durham is a scriptwriter, author, and poet who started out as a standup comedian. His other plays include The Fertile River, Vol. 1; and A Post Racial America.
His Polar Bears, Black Boys & Prairie Fringed Orchids came about through a shared commission by PlayGround and Planet Earth Arts. The play was named a finalist in the 2019 National Showcase of New Plays competition.

The sponsoring Juneteenth Theatre Justic Project originated with Aldo Billingslea in the San Francisco Bay Area, with the purpose of introducing black theater artists, confronting systemic racism in the theater industry, and raising funds to support black theaters throughout the country.

Although the event is free, donations to the Lorraine Hansbury Theatre Fund for Black Theatres in the U.S. are encouraged, at https://www.lhtsf.org/.

For more information or to watch the presentation, go online to www.octheatre.org/Juneteenth.