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Posted under: Opinion

As Theatre Artists, Here Is Why We Felt It Was Necessary To Showcase The Black Family In A New Light

Family can be like shards of fractured glass, but the hope is that when these pieces are brought together, a beautiful mosaic is created.

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Three years ago, a heartbreaking epiphany about Black people working in the theatre — that the canon of work many of us have been trained to appreciate was never intended for us — became the inspiration for a play pulled from personal, lived experience. A Black play, not about being Black, but about navigating family while Black, titled, Chicken and Biscuits.

We rarely see Black women allowed to thrive centerstage. They're often only allowed to be maids or slaves, taking care of everyone else. But who takes care of them?

In Chicken and Biscuits, Baneatta and Beverly attempt to put their sisterly differences aside to bury their father, Bernard. All is well at the funeral until it's revealed that Bernard had not just two daughters, but three. Wig pins loosen as truths emerge, leaving this African American family to confront their skeletons head on — but with lots of love, shade and prayer along the way.

Our play is messy and tight, while heartfelt and comical. The audience is literally the church congregation, experiencing the eruption and healing of this family live. An opportunity to showcase the Black family in this way — without oppression, gaze or judgment — breathes love in front of you. It' s a universal love, but through our voice.

Our amazing team of designers and performers is the gift that keeps on giving, and each day we discover more and more truths these characters are trying to tell us. 

It’s been said that Chicken and Biscuits doesn’t really start until your car ride or train ride home. This is to say, the conversations sparked by a piece of work are just as important as the work itself. When families come and see this show, we hope topics that once felt off limits and emotions that were once absent of vocabulary start to find voice on their journeys back to where they’ve come from. 

The timeless questions of how do we forgive one another and how do we forgive ourselves permeate the piece, along with reflecting on how hard it can be to really show up as yourself in front of the people who love you most. Family can be like shards of fractured glass, but the hope of Chicken and Biscuits is that when these pieces are brought together, a beautiful mosaic is created.

Chicken and Biscuits is playing February 28, 2020 through March 22, 2020 at the The Queens Theatre.

For more information, visit QueensTheatre.org/chicken-and-biscuits or call (718) 760-0064.

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Douglas Lyons is an actor, writer, director, composer and playwright. He was a member of the original Broadway cast of 'Beautiful — The Carole King Musical', and as a writer his lyrics have played Lincoln Center, The Old Globe, Goodspeed Musicals, Seattle Rep, Joe's Pub, NAMT and more.

Zhailon Levingston is a Louisiana raised director. He co-founded #WORDSONWHITE, an arts and activism campaign, and is an artist in resident for Columbia Law School. He is currently the U.S. Associate Director of 'Tina — The Tina Turner Musical'.

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