This Cambridge artist is on a mission to help men of color who survived abuse

Keith Mascoll, photographed recently near his home in Cambridge, founded The Triggered Project to promote healing through art.Keith Mascoll, photographed recently near his home in Cambridge, founded The TriggeredProject to promote healing through art.JONATHAN WIGGS/GLOBE STAFF

When Keith Mascoll was struggling, he turned to art to cope. And he quickly realized it could help others as well. In 2018, the Cambridge actor and mental health advocate founded The Triggered Project, a series of creative endeavors designed to help men of color who are survivors of sexual abuse.

“We are shattering the silence and nurturing the healing of Black and brown male survivors with the use of art,” Mascoll said in a recent video interview.

The project launched with “Triggered Life: A Requiem of Healing,” Mascoll’s one-man show written and directed by John Oluwole ADEkoje. It premiered in 2018 at Hibernian Hall in Roxbury, with a motion picture/live stage hybrid production this spring at Oregon’s Portland Playhouse. Mascoll said he plans to enter the show into a film festival in the future. Except he wouldn’t exactly classify “Triggered” as a show. It’s more of an experience, he said. The work requires juggling the roles of two characters, Keith and Ishmael, as they dissect the trauma of sexually abusive childhoods. As a survivor himself, Mascoll’s monologue is a real account. Ishmael’s character is a composite, representing “men that can’t speak and haven’t spoken yet,” Mascoll explained.

The 90-minute production is split into two acts, with the second half reserved for a talkback led by mental health professionals. “We try to move the system of care to recognize and understand that Black and brown men have not been identified as a population that we cater to or serve,” said psychotherapist Roxann Mascoll, the project’s lead clinician and also Keith’s wife.

Not only can audience members ask questions, but they can — and are encouraged to — share reactions and feelings. At several showings, “Triggered” moved men to disclose their own stories for the first time, despite being surrounded by a sea of strangers.It wasn’t like they were sharing in front of 200 people,” Mascoll said. “It was like they were just telling us — and that’s huge.”

Over three years, The Triggered Project has grown to incorporate more shows and creative elements. Mascoll recently collaborated with ADEkoje on another theater project, this one called “Empty Frames.” The digital monologue, released earlier this year, was a part of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum’s Luminary Lens seriesand tells of the emptiness many sexual abuse survivors feel.

“I also wanted to make the statement about how in the Black and brown communities, and in other communities as well, how art has been stolen,” Mascoll said, drawing a parallel between cultural appropriation and the 1990 Gardner Museum heist. “For the museum to stand behind that work and allow me to make that analogy was amazing and a blessing.”

Also in The Triggered Project toolbox is the Inner Monologue Sneaker Art Project. As a sneakerhead, Mascoll seeks to integrate his love of shoes and his work helping survivors create their own monologues. And last May, the Mascolls launched the “Living a Triggered Life” podcast, where the couple discusses how they navigate marriage as survivors of trauma. Later this year, they plan to record a live episode at the Museum of Science.

Roxann and Keith Mascoll are cohosts of the podcast "Living A Triggered Life," where they discuss their relationship and individual mental health.JONATHAN WIGGS/GLOBE STAFF

The podcast puts their personalities on full display, with jokes and laughter sprinkled in-between talk of darker matters. Roxann said the inspiration came from friends constantly asking how they managed to stay together so long.We often start with how we went to individual therapy,” she said. “Their initial response is surprise, then silence about therapy.”

Stigma can make sexual abuse and mental health difficult to discuss, but the goal through all elements of The Triggered Project is to “have the difficult conversation that the Black and brown community doesn’t want to have about our men being abused,” Mascoll said. He also advocates for protecting boys in much the same way as girls by educating them on what is and is not acceptable.

As for himself, Mascoll said his abuser used to control the narrative he told himself, but The Triggered Project has allowed him to take charge and even evolve that story.

“I’m getting stronger as a person, getting to be a better husband, a better artist,” Mascoll said in summary. “When your spirit is clear, that’s when true creativity happens.”

Meet Keith Mascoll of Triggered….A requiem of Healing #thishappened

Today we’d like to introduce you to Keith Mascoll.

Keith, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I am a high energy chameleon Actor, producer. I belong to Actors Equity Union for stage and The Screen Actors Guild for film. I am here to inspire people by living out the stories of others through my acting. I am committed to using my unique and innovative style to provoke love, laughter, and empathy in each story told. I strive to use my art for social change. I have a strong background with working with young people. I am a founding Staff Member of Citizen schools, and a Teaching Artist for the Huntington Theatre Company. I have designed innovative programing for 500-1000 middle school age to high school students. I am passionate about the one man show Triggered directed by John Oluwole Adekoje because I am a survivor of sexual abuse. It was not until adulthood that I felt comfortable to share my story of childhood abuse. Sexual abuse of Black men is rarely discussed. One of the goals of this project is to create awareness about issues of sexual violence experienced by men of color. Triggered can help mental health practitioners appreciate the complexity of trauma and its impact in the black and brown communities. Through this project I hope to inspire other men of color to release their pain and hurt, to begin their healing process as I have started.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
My journey to this point in my career and producing Triggered has not been easy. The biggest challenge has been the loss of both of my parents, while coming to grips with my truth about being abused. The feeling of being an orphan feeling alone when I needed my parents the most has been painful. This journey really started when I moved back to my childhood home. All of the memories of the abuse came rushing back to me, I had to sort out these memories and come to grips with picking up the pieces of my life, identity, and sexuality in the face of grief. It took a toll on me which caused me to stop acting consistently so I could take the space to take care of my mind, body, and spirit. All of these things happened as I was experiencing a successful acting career, but it was more important for me to deal with the loss my parents and deal with the realization of my abuse. In the last year, I have been trying to recover from a bad case of shingles. The stress of the promoting and touring for a recent project, Confused by Love film took a toll on my body. This film afforded me the opportunity to travel to France and 8 other cities in a year which ended up complicating my health. I had to learn to work when I could and rest when it was necessary in order to create a healthy balance for my recovery.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
As an actor it is important to use my art to tell stories that need to be told, working with John Adekoje to help shape and build these stories makes all the difference. John and I work seamlessly and think as one on every project we work on together. Triggered is no different. There is a spiritual honesty and political statement in our work. We utilize all of our cultural gifts like storytelling, art, music, and fashion in our work together. John has added projection and technology to take it to the next level.

Triggered is a multi-sensory, multimedia post-traumatic story that reveals the psyche of men in need of understanding, love, and forgiveness. Triggered asks how exactly does trauma cast a shadow over the wholeness of black male selfhood? When does the shared cultural values of black and brown communities demand that men suppress their vulnerability and meet with their psychology alone? What kind of masculine identity is constructed and how can we redefine it? How do we stop reinforcing a mythology that masquerades are natural?

Triggered follows a day in the life of two such men, one named Malik and the other Keith. As they share their stories, we are forced to come to terms with how our urge to suppress, hide and lock away the experiences, thoughts and feelings that feed the very thing we most fear. I am blessed to be creating work for myself. I helped create a local professional black theater company in Cambridge so as to continue having stories that represent communities of color. Currently, I have been producing and staring in the movie titled Argyles. And Rosey this spring and summer. You can find me online in the film Confused by love. I have a role in the recently released Polka King starring Jack Black.

What were you like growing up?
I was a great energetic kid. I love dancing, soccer, basketball, football and the arts. I knew at a young age, I had a gift of being able to make people laugh. Initially, I was unaware of the effect it had on people. I loved doing impressions of famous people and my family. I leaned on my creativity to get me through the rough moments of my life. Dancing always has been a great outlet for me besides acting. Growing up I danced with my mom all the time, it was a big part of our relationship in which I adored. I have to move when I hear music, it takes over my body and the emotion flows out. Music and dancing is the one constant in my life and helps me feel connected to my mom. When the abuse occurred it made me feel depressed and it started to affect my sleep and school performance. The hardest part was that no one ever asked me, what happened to cause these changes in me.




Photo of Mascoll courtesy of Team Triggered


If Keith Mascoll and his Boston-based Team Triggered aren’t on your radar just yet, there’s a solid chance that they will capture your attention in 2019. On the strength of a successful three-day run of their “collaborative, multimedia, multi-sensory, empathy-generating” show at Hibernian Hall in Roxbury last March, they’re taping a one-night-only performance of John Oluwole Adekoje’s Triggered at the BCA this month and are planning a full run in Boston later this year. We asked Mascoll, who plays both of the play’s two characters, about the growth and development of his project and the challenge of sparking discussions about trauma in the black community.


The big centerpiece here is that “while the visibility of what we call ‘trauma’ has become more tangible as of late, the visibility of black male trauma remains elusive.” Since there is seemingly so much in this regard that is elusive, how have you and your creative partners along the way gone about selecting narratives that will cover a lot of ground?

Our first step is to acknowledge the historical impact on the definition of black masculinity which have connections to the legacies of post-slavery contexts. This first step is critical to ensure that black/brown men are able to connect to the intergenerational context, to begin to externalize their working definitions of masculinity. Secondly, the character of Malik is a composite of real men of color’s stories over a number of years from our psychologist consultant, so we are able to make sure the narrative is authentic. The other character, Keith, is my own personal story as a survivor. The combination of two completely different characters and their narratives helps the audience find a story they can relate to.


With the Catholic Church being so notorious around here for its abuse of predominantly white boys, especially in cases that have made headlines, has that story in any way overshadowed comparable horrors in communities of color? 

I would not say that it overshadowed the horrors in communities of color; it tucked it away even more. If anyone stepped up and spoke out, would any news outlet or anyone else care? This is a conversation nobody in our community wants to have, and it’s just hard for men and men of color to talk about. 


We have a system problem similarly to the Catholic church. Realistically, are there more male victims of color in the Catholic Church community and we just don’t know because they do not disclose? … There are more questions than answers until we create space for men of color to feel safe to disclose and anticipate a helpful supportive response.


Systems of care are not set up, either specifically for men, or that readily welcome men in general. Men of color do not trust any of those systems and/or its practitioners, including doctors, police, or clinicians. There is there no faith that anything is going to change, and many times mental health providers are not always men.


You write that Triggered is “more than a play—it’s an inherently collaborative, multimedia, multi-sensory, empathy-generating story.” While it is certainly unique, are there any performances, shows, anything that really served as an inspiration for the format?

Our director/playwright, John Oluwole Adekoje, is a filmmaker, and his plays create incredible images on stage of characters that make it hard to look away from the pain they suffer. When we talked about the project with our psychologist consultant, it was clear that the most important element was to ensure that audience members were able to “see” the trigger happen in the body physically and in the brain. So, we decided to use projection to show the connection between the emotions and triggering events’ impact while the characters are telling stories.


There are many people that really struggle to understand what is happening with survivors internally, and as a result, judgement is created based on society norms and/or expectations, which is often not helpful. … A number of men of color [have] to walk around with unresolved trauma. 




Triggered has taken place at the Dudley Library, Hibernian Hall, and now the BCA. How different is the experience in these different venues, and what is it like to adapt in such a nomadic fashion?

The Dudley branch of the Boston Public Library was a[n] open rehearsal that focused on inviting the audience to provide feedback from a community perspective in the beginning stages of development of the first iteration of the script. At Hibernian Hall, we had the capacity to create a[n] “in the round” stage to nurture a deeper level of intimacy between the actor and audience. In turn, the audience could feel the passion of the show and what it felt like physically and emotionally to be inside the minds of the Malik and Keith characters while they told their stories. 


John Oluwole Adekoje was committed to bring the same intimate feel of Hibernian Hall to the BCA Wimberly Theatre. This is the magic of Adekoje’s talent, drawing the audience in and leaving very little space for escape emotionally and physically. As we continue to take in feedback from our audience members of color, we make changes to continue to reflect the experiences of the community. We changed the order of the performance, adding new technical gadgets to help the audience distinguish the characters Malik and Keith. John and I have worked together on a one-man show called Love Jones, so we just talk about it and make the organic changes that need to happen. Our Assistant Director Trinidad Ramkissoon is a young, vibrant talent that brings a creative lens to help make the seamless transitions from venue to venue.


Can you tell us a little bit more about the “talkbacks facilitated by mental health clinicians” that follow some performances? How will that look for the Boston performance?

It is so important that as we talk about trauma we are being responsible and acknowledging the audience [and] their own experiences of being triggered. It is also important that we have support of clinicians, which includes licensed social workers, psychologists, advocates, and case managers to grow their own practice to be prepared to service and support men of color.


This is the Triggered Project dedication to creating a system of care that welcomes men of color or evolves to create specified services for men of color. My partner, Roxann Mascoll LCSW, a clinician, leads the conversation at end of the show and guides the audience in discussion to debrief their experience. We will also have other clinicians on site and in the audience if anyone needs support. After decompressing the energy it takes to perform these characters, I usually participate in the talkback with preselected questions, which is important for my own self-care. Finally, there is an open format for audience members.


You are donating part of the proceeds to 1in6, which has a mission of helping men who have had unwanted or abusive sexual experiences live healthier, happier lives. How did you link up with them and why did they seem like the right partner?

We created a resource page on our website which include supportive and/or therapeutic providers which is a responsible way to ensure we are continuing to participate in creating awareness and community around men of color. I researched and their purpose just spoke to me. The services and resources they have for men are amazing, it just seemed like the right to do. I was lucky because I had the support when I was ready to accept it and that made a difference in my life—shouldn’t all men of color have that same opportunity?


I hear there are a lot more tangential projects in the works—a podcast, a longer run. What can you tell us? Especially for people who won’t get to see this one?

Yes, we have a show in Atlanta in April 2019 at the National Association of Black Social Workers 51st Annual Conference, which includes a workshop for clinicians of color specifically. We are having discussions with Greatest Minds located at Georgia State University to bring Triggered to their young students of color.


The podcast is called “Living a Triggered Life,” which will feature myself and my partner Roxann discussing being in a long-term relationship when there are past trauma issues and how we navigate it as a couple. We will have guests and resources for men and women as well. We also have a written curriculum, so we can offer workshops after the show with young people and adults. We will center our work around redefining the narrative, with choices of different activities depending on where each participant is emotionally. We plan to do a full run in Boston next season, and are looking to do a run in New York, LA, and Chicago.




Living a triggered life

Keith Mascoll continues his work via stage and podcast

Celina Colby

Keith Mascoll stars in his one-man show, “Triggered,” at Calderwood Pavilion. PHOTO: COURTESY KEITH MASCOLL

On Jan. 25, Keith Mascoll’s one-man show, “Triggered,” returns to Boston for a single performance at the Calderwood Pavilion. After three sold-out shows at Hibernian Hall last year, Mascoll’s project returns to the Boston stage in a longer format sponsored by The Boston Foundation. 

The multisensory, multimedia presentation follows two men who have experienced domestic violence and are working towards acceptance. Mascoll, who is a survivor of abuse himself, says it’s important to raise awareness for the topic. “I think it’s difficult for men in general, but especially for black men, to talk about their emotions,” he says. “It’s been such a survival tactic for people of color to keep quiet.”

Significant updates have been made since last year’s performance. The show originally included only one projector; now it utilizes three to create a fully immersive experience. At Hibernian Hall, the production was shown in the round; at the larger Calderwood space it will be performed in a more traditional theater format with the audience facing the stage. Mascoll will also be sharing his own personal story in addition to the original accounts. The hour-and-a-half long experience will finish off with a talkback. The Boston Foundation will be filming this performance for future use.

The talkback isn’t just a way for Mascoll to discuss his artistic work; it’s a safe space for audience members to communicate as well. Mascoll says, “The last time we did the show we had four or five people disclose during the talkback. And we had the resources to get them help.”

In addition to his continued work on the “Triggered” stage show, Mascoll is launching a podcast with his partner called “Living a Triggered Life.” The podcast will discuss how to be in a relationship with a domestic violence survivor and how to support them. Mascoll says, “Communication is key, and patience. Trying to be honest with ourselves first is important. Then we can share the experience.” He plans to have psychology professionals as guests on the show to add an expert perspective. He’ll also take calls. The podcast is being produced by Podcast Garage in Allston, and Mascoll estimates it will be available on their website within a month or so. 

In all his work, Mascoll aims to illustrate that this is an important topic to discuss and that victims shouldn’t feel ashamed about their circumstances. He says, “I hope people come away with hope, empowerment and awareness.”







Keith Mascoll, strength, courage and healing through revelation!

Actor, activist Keith Mascoll puts his personal art front and center.



Cambridge born and raised actor Keith Mascoll has portrayed numerous protagonists during his acting career. From Keith's stylish humble beginnings on Cambridge Rindge and Latin stages to performing with cutting edge repertory companies, such as the Black Rep Theater in the Providence, Rhode Island, to performances throughout New England and nationwide - including stints on TV, movie and internet screens - Keith has carved out a unique reputation as one of the Boston areas more in demand talents. He granted a phone interview with me on my Saturday radio show on WZBR to share his latest work entitled Triggered at Hibernian Hall in Roxbury. Triggered, a one-person show, takes an extremely personal and equally revealing look at sexual abuse from a perspective rarely if ever shared on stage; Black and male. Juxtaposed against and within today's current climate of sexual abuse, specifically the #MeToo movement, the front and center voices highlighting sexual misconduct and abuse in the entertainment industry - with very few exceptions - have been almost exclusively female. Keith Mascoll's Triggered, directed by John Oluwole ADEkoje, with a minimal stage set, displays portraits of two men of color, recipients of the most personal of violations, not by way of Hollywood's notorious casting couch variety, but unforgivably familial. Masterfully utilizing multimedia sound and imagery, Triggered brings to one's memory times a places through music. The artwork reveals the journeys the two protagonists go through trying to survive trauma. The navigation of their paths are filled with complexities containing both the loss one's youthful self and the regaining self-hope and, dare I say, thriving post-trauma. There are not many people, who are willing to put their lives on full display - before friends and strangers - for the purpose of not just entertaining someone, but to give patrons an examples hope and healing through their own personal trauma? Keith simultaneously shocks, humanizes, grieves, copes, and plows through and breaks through what very few people are willing to articulate let alone put on a stage. Due to the mature themes of the show, people no younger than high school age are encouraged to attend unless accompanied with an adult. As part of the supportive healing nature of the show, there will also be a non-obligatory discussion led by a licensed social worker immediately following the show. Triggered shows the range and depth of not only Keith's life's work, but ultimately the life through which his work has developed through. Triggered plays at Hibernian Hall through March 9 and tickets courtesy of a foundation grant are free through a reservation at #Triggered1

Listen to the interview with Keith Mascoll by clicking here



The Whipping Man by Matthew Lopez

In The Whipping Man, author Matthew Lopez explores not only the shame and demoralizing effects of slavery but the sense of responsibility all men must possess, regardless of their station in society. Simon, the older slave, advises John, a mischievous young man, to make amends with a white neighbor who is a witness to a wrong-doing of John's. Simon tells him "Make it right...You are living in this world now, not just serving in it."  

The characters consist of Simon and John, slaves who work on the DeLeon family plantation and Caleb DeLeon, the plantation owner's son. Simon, the older, wiser slave has watched the two boys grow up on the plantation, playing and getting into trouble together "like two peas in a pod" as Simon likes to say. 

Caleb has returned home from fighting for the Confederacy where he was badly injured in the war. He finds his fire-damaged home inhabited only by Simon and John. Simon displays real affection for the wounded young man and tends to his wounds, pressing John to help him through the sometimes grisly medical procedures.  

The DeLeon family is Jewish and they raise their slaves in the tradition as well. Now Caleb has returned from the war having lost his faith and Simon, unable to comprehend this, tries to bolster the ex-slave owner's spirit. John, however is more concerned with how Caleb's family can live in the faith but own other men, in particular fellow Jews, as the Torah specifically forbids. He asks Caleb if they are brothers in the faith, or still just heathens.  

The great Johnny Lee Davenport manages to play Simon as a good-natured, proud and spiritual man. He comes off more like a compassionate pragmatist stuck in a bad situation, rather than a subservient Uncle Tom. Simon just wants to carry on the good traditions like his religion while leaving the bad ones behind.  

John on the other hand, played to energetic perfection by Keith Mascoll, is a sly, humorous and very intelligent idealist who has taught himself to read and then uses that ability to cite passages that criticize the evils of the slave life he was born into. Hot-headed yet wily, he must hide the fact that he can read, as it was illegal for slaves to be literate. John hides behind a mask of simple tom-foolery but his actions belie his passions as we find he has been punished in the past for smuggling books to other like-minded slaves. Throughout the performance, Mr. Mascoll plays the multifaceted role with both humor and passion, nearly stealing the show at times with his delivery and wonderful sense of timing.  

Jesse Hinton, another locally-based talent  passionately plays the tortured Caleb DeLeon. Caleb's life has been undone and his home as he knows it is no more. In the end he will face even more disturbing truths as secrets are revealed. 

The Whipping Man makes one ponder the complexities of our human nature. Friendship, religion, freedom and responsibility all come under close scrutiny in this gritty and emotional yet at times funny tale of a group of people at an historic moment in time harshly effected by the choices made by them and for them.  

Theatre Mania Review of Love Jones by John Adekoje

Keith Mascoll in Love Jones 
(Photo © John Adekoje) 
Watch this playwright! Watch this actor!  
There were plenty of treats at the Annual Boston Theater Marathon on Sunday, but two talents stood out: the playwright John Oluwole Adekoje and the actor Keith Mascoll. Adekoje's riveting Love Jones -- one of 45 plays in the 10-hour marathon -- was sponsored by the New African Company, directed by Vincent E. Siders, and delivered with breathtaking energy by Mascoll. 

A gunshot is heard and an African American in a black, hooded sweatshirt stands silently, head bowed. He is not yet 17. Suddenly he erupts with life, courting someone unseen. We think it's a woman -- a woman whom his mother has warned him against. He's talking a blue streak and it's hard to catch every word in his music-like geyser of speech, but we feel the power of his emotions -- one instant a child's feelings, the next instant a man's, then a child's again. By the end, we realize that something more sinister than a person is the object of his longing. 

Such moments are sufficient reward for the intense labor that goes into creating (and attending!) a day's worth of 10-minute plays. Besides raising money for the Theatre Community Benevolent Fund and besides showcasing 45 sponsoring theaters, the marathon is an opportunity for great discoveries. 

It's not every playwright who can convey tragedy in a snapshot without being superficial. Adekoje succeeded in doing so, but most of the 10-minute playwrights went for poignancy or comedy. 

Fringe benefits :Love Jones by John Adekoje
Small companies consider big issues 

Its Love Jones, the festival’s only single-character piece, shows how life in an urban ghetto can lead a teen who’s just out to survive (and get a little play while he’s at it) to make choices that spell ruin. Under Vincent Siders’s intense direction, Keith Mascoll plays a young gangsta trying to sweet-talk a "sweet butter kind" of woman. He spews the cultural references in John Adekoje’s script like smoke from a flame to prove his cool. But flames leap when circumstances spin out of his control, and he lunges in your face when fear overtakes him. Adekoje has a sharp ear for the glib vulgarities of speech and thought characteristic of kids out to prove their gangsta slickness, and Mascoll glides from cockiness to terror to the unexpected finish. 

Serious Funny
Providence Black Repertory Company’s The Colored Museum 

Mileage may vary, but by and large we'll get farther laughing instead of crying. At least that was the observation of George C. Wolfe in The Colored Museum, also a conclusion of African-Americans historically. The jam-packed play is getting a rip-roaring rendition at the Providence Black Repertory Company 

. The 11 sketches on display all have the frolicking loopiness of skits on a black Saturday Night Live, but most also have an underlying serious intensity that make them ready for theatrical prime time. 

Although the comedy is broad and vaudevillian, the five actors, skillfully directed by Don Mays, each let us glimpse that they're capable of more. The sketches are double-layered too, as you'd expect from settings that run from a slave ship and a Vietnam War battlefield to a nightclub and a cooking show.  

The weaker sketches tend to make their points immediately and then merely draw them out. Lambert is an American expatriate chanteuse, freshly returned from Paris in the Josephine Baker mode, a southern drawl eventually, predictably, peeking out of her thick French accent. In a photo shoot for Ebony magazine ads, Bento and Keith Mascoll vamp and vogue as models “inside a world where everything is beautiful.” Dressed like Aunt Jemima, Marsha Z. West adds a little of this and a lot of that, from jazz to brash attitude, to cook up “a batch of Negroes” with just the right flavor. 

The matter of attitude comes up a lot, as a crucial survival mechanism. That's most explicit, and most effective, in a piece titled “The Gospel According to Miss Roj,” where Mascoll plays a transvestite snap queen who banishes all hurtful encounters with assertive, in-their-face applications of the dismissive gesture. This is an easy candidate for the most effective insight in the play.  

Rail rage:Dutchman is no summer of love 

DUTCHMAN, By Amiri Baraka (formerly LeRoi Jones). Directed by Brett Milanowski. Set and lighting design by Joanne Savage. Costumes by Heather Ritchie. Sound by Ben Arons and Brendan Hughes. Music by Nathan Pyritz. Fight choreography by Robert Isaacson. With Keith Mascoll, Caroline Lawton, Cliff Odle, Nathan Pyritz, Julie Fulton, David C. Galusi, and James Scott. 

Set on a New York subway car in the middle of summer, Dutchman opens with the kind of "opposites attract" situation that grounds so many safe romantic comedies: a clean-cut, articulate young black man named Clay flirts with a slightly older, seemingly impulsive and free-spirited white woman. The woman, named Lula, is in control here, and she claims that she already knows everything about Clay ("You're a well-known type," she says dismissively). The talk turns frankly sexual, and Lula titillates Clay with promises of a night of passion. She makes increasingly crude references to his race, and as the train fills up with white passengers, he seems increasingly vulnerable. Clay first tries to fight words with words, and much of Dutchman would fit right into a 1990s poetry slam. ("You don't know anything except what's there for you to see. An act. Lies. Device. Not the pure heart, the pumping black heart.") But playwright Baraka reveals his impatience with language, especially as used by artists to channel their energies away from physical action. "If Bessie Smith had killed some white people," Clay spits out, "she wouldn't have needed that music." 

This Dutchman is on stronger ground when Clay begins to dominate the action. Keith Mascoll, believable as the easygoing Clay of the first scene, is mesmerizing as he takes center stage and tears into the climactic speech that begins with the simple command "Shut up and let me talk." When Dutchman reached its abrupt conclusion (the play is barely an hour long) last Saturday, the spectators gave the cast a protracted and enthusiastic ovation, then took an extraordinarily long time to leave their seats.  I suspect that the reaction would have been different in 1964 -- more shocked silence, less exhilaration at Clay's defiant words -- but the Theatre Cooperative has shown that Baraka's work still has some potency a quarter-century later.

 Uncomfortable Secrets Are Revealed in Crosby Tatum’s Dramedy ‘Confused…by Love’(Shadow and Act)

“Confused…by Love

Writer/director Crosby Tatum’s feature film “Confused…by Love,” which is currently traveling the film festival circuit.

A synopsis for the film reads: “Married for only a single year, Ferguson and Tiffany Marie Middlebecker’s marriage, is suddenly on the rocks when they both find themselves broke, and about to lose their lovely home to sudden foreclosure. Hope however comes in the form of Reggie Maxwell, Ferguson’s former best friend, and Jo-Jo, Ferguson ex-girlfriend, who both pop out of nowhere, to help Ferguson and Tiffany out, if they can both stay at their home for 5 days straight. Hidden skeletons and uncomfortable secrets soon begin to reveal themselves to these four individuals as they do all that they can to not only save a home, but their respective relationships as well, before it’s too late.”

Keith Mascoll, Jamie M. Perez, Simba Dibinga, and Jordan Lloyd star.

The film was produced on a minimal budget, and shot for six straight days in the Dorchester/Roxbury area of Boston, MA.

“To me, ‘Confused…by Love’ represents a point in our lives when we love our significant other, and when times get rough, we don’t necessarily know how to handle the situation as it compounds our normalcy and often allows us to question if the situation we are in, is ‘right,’ or if it is ‘wrong,'” director Tatum explains.

The film premiered at the 2015 Urban Mediamakers Film Festival in Atlanta, GA, where it won the festival’s Audience Award. It’s most recent screened at the International Pan African Film Festival that takes place in Cannes, France.



Finding Brilliance in a Beauty Parlor

Katori Hall’s newest play, set in a Memphis beauty parlor at the end of World War II, further highlights her as a talent to watch.(Wall Street Journal)

Jasmine Rush, Meagan Dilworth, Keith Mascoll and Cloteal L. Horne. Jasmine Rush, Meagan Dilworth, Keith Mascoll and Cloteal L. Horne. Photo: Glenn Perry