By Walter Rutledge
The Faison Firehouse Theater’s production of Accept “Except” LGBT NY began its two plus week run on Thursday June 21. The two-character play was written by Karimah and is directed by George Faison. It is based upon the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution and was first presented with a male cast. This new rendition keeps the initial premise of injustice for just “being” intact, but opens the message of tolerance and understanding to a new demographic.
The play opens with two people a freed slave named Sirus, played by Tyree Young, and a woman who calls herself Mike, Ceez Liive, being pursued by angry mobs. Sirus is being chased in 1700 New York, while Mike is being chased in the present day. Both run into Central Park and choose to take refuge in the same tree to hide from their would be attackers. Somehow their worlds intersect and Sirus befriends an apprehensive and confrontational Mike.
During the course of their encounter the two discuss what lead them to seek sanctuary in the tree. It seems both were victims of anti-gay oppression. Mike has accident bumped into a young man while listen to her iPod and was then pursued because of her boyish attire and mannerism. A friend betrays Sirus revealing his sexuality and then accusing him of setting the fire that kills his companion.
As the story unfolds both characters are confronted with issues of slavery and true emancipation and equality. The issues go beyond gay rights and equality. They include the reality that one person can make a difference, and that change often begins as a whisper before it can become a crescendo.
“To accept without exception the rights and freedoms of all people in their pursuit of liberty, freedom, justice and respect”, states Faison at the opening of the production. He then briefly discussed the timeliness of the production in the face political factions that seems determined to repeal basic civil liberties. Throughout the production the two characters deal with the horrors of slavery, from the antebellum south of Sirus’ 1700’s to the social and economic slavery of Mike’s present day world.
Actors Young and Liive create a strong on-stage chemistry. The characters at first seem diametric opposites. Sirus is a cultured and mannered eighteenth century “negro” gentleman who received his freedom at the age of 17 and can read and write; Mike is an inner city hip-hop generation woman, who reacts to confrontation with violence. As the story develops the outward appearances and preconception disappear, and a more universal truth emerges.
Liive is a former member of the Faison Firehouse Respect Project. A community outreach program started in 2000 by Faison to provide young people 13 to 18 years olds. Young is a recent graduate of the Howard University’s Theatre Arts Department and has previously worked with Faison on his production of Steppin’ Out of the Negro Caravan.
Director Faison has produced a fast-paced, insightful and skillfully staged one act play. The simple unadorned set (also designed by Faison) consisting of basic black painted scaffolding and two sets of stairs was sequestered between black flats. This created the tight, claustrophobic feeling of a confided upper space. Ralph Gentry collaborated with Faison on the video design, which was effective used to create an environment, as well as visually define time and place.
Accept “Except” LGBT NY is the second offering by the Faison Firehouse celebrating gay pride. Earlier this month the independent film The Skinny by Patrick-Ian Polk (Punks and Noah’s Arc) made it’s New York debut at the Firehouse. This production runs until Sunday July 8 and the performance schedule is as follows: June 27- 30 and July 6 and 7 at 7:30pm, and July 1 and 8 at 5pm. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased at the Faison Firehouse Box Office, for more information call 212 665-7698. You can also purchase by credit card by calling SMARTTIX at 212 868-4444 or by visiting SMARTTIX.COM.
In Photo: 1) Tyree Young and Ceez Liive 2) Tyree Yound 3) Tyree Young and Ceez Liive 4) Ceez Liive 5) George Faison
Photo Credits: 1-4) APAC Inc. 5) Jonathan Aitkens