Playwright takes reality of black men, prisons to main stage
Marcus Gardley is taking his healing to the stage. In a series of plays, the 36-year-old playwright is exercising his freedom of expression by creating satirical works about black men and prisons.
“You are the amalgam of the stories they were not able to get out to the world,” Mr. Gardley, a Yale School of Drama graduate, said of the characters. “There are fragments of reality, myth, fairy tale, cliché and stereotype.” He mentioned a scene in which the character Icarus, the teenage son of Deadlust (yes, that myth), yells for help as he is arrested. “I cried when I wrote this scene this morning,” he said, choking on the words.
Between last April and Wednesday, when “The Box” opens at the Irondale Center in Brooklyn, in aFoundry Theater production, there will have been 10 productions of seven of his plays across the country. They include “The Gospel of Lovingkindness,” about gun violence (the Victory Gardens Theater in Chicago); “Black Odyssey,” about a soldier journeying home to Harlem (the Denver Center for the Performing Arts); and “The House that will not Stand,” which, after its West Coast premiere, opens at Yale Repertory Theater on April 18 (Production No. 11).
“My writing is like my ministry,” he said in a recent interview. “We have so many traumas and need so much healing in our communities. I want my work to be part of the healing process.”
While Gardley has received positive reviews for his work, he contends that critics sometimes do not get his “ambitious, often nonlinear narratives, nor appreciate his unapologetically African-American aesthetic.
“For all its magical incantations, murder, lust, voodoo and exorcism, the narrative never casts a spell potent enough to stir the soul,” a critic for The San Jose Mercury News wrote of “House.”
Kudos to Mr. Gardley for unapologetically bringing the African American male narrative to the big stage.
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