New stage production opening on South Coast looks at tough issue of racism and law enforcement
Santa Barbara's Ensemble Theater Company produces play American Son.
It’s a play looking at a parent’s nightmare, but on a deeper level, racial dynamics in America. Your son doesn’t come home one night. You go to a police station, because you find out they have his car. But, there are no answers as to his whereabouts. And, your son is black.
The plays is called American Son.
Jonathon Fox is director of the Ensemble Theater Company production, which opens Saturday night in Santa Barbara.
"This play deals with some critical issues in American culture, namely racism and the police," said Fox. Ensemble was going to do the play two years ago. Then, the pandemic shut down the theater.
During the lockdown, the deaths of George Floyd and Brionna Taylor made the issue more relevant than ever.
Actress Tracey Leigh plays Kendra, the mother trying to find out what happened to her missing son. She was set to play the role two years ago, and is finally playing it now.
"The story is incredibly timely, and in the intervening two years, has become even more so," said Leigh. "Everyone saw what happened in 2020." She said people are eager to learn more, and better understand the issues surrounding race in America.
American Son originally opened on Broadway, and featured actress Kerry Washington. In 2019, a film version of it aired on Netflix.
The traumatic events which happened during the pandemic in Minnesota and Kentucky made some changes in the play necessary.
Fox reached out to the playwright, who agreed it needed to be updated. The writer met with the cast via zoom, and made changes reflecting the events of 2020, and how they affected America.
Leigh feels American Son will mean much more to audiences now than it would have two years ago.
American Son has previews Thursday and Friday nights, and opens Saturday night at Santa Barbara’s New Vic Theater. It runs through April 24.