Whose Revolution Is It?

The folk operetta "VS." is written by Oakland playwright Cleavon Smith, who teaches at Berkeley City College.


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"VS." tells the story of a Revolutionary War hero.

A new folk operetta commissioned and developed by TheatreFIRST, VS. is about a great leader of the American Revolutionary War but probably not one you learned about in school: Colonel Tye (not to be confused with Colonel Tigh, the Battlestar Galactica character pronounced the same but spelled differently).

Born in slavery in New Jersey, Colonel Tye escaped in 1775 and promptly joined the military—not fighting on behalf of the colonists who kept his people in chains, but against them. Tye became a formidable guerilla soldier working for the British forces, leading the Black Brigade in raids against their former captors, knowing the territory well from their time as slaves.

VS. is part of the 20-year-old Berkeley company TheatreFIRST’s bold first season under new artistic director Jon Tracy, focusing entirely on commissioned new works and committing to ensure that the artistic teams, staff, and board are at least half women and at least two-thirds people of color.

The folk operetta is written by Oakland playwright Cleavon Smith, who teaches at Berkeley City College, with music composed by Bay Area actors Stephanie Prentice and Reggie D. White (the latter now based in New York). Nigerian-born actor and San Francisco Mime Troupe regular Rotimi Agbabiaka directs the show, which promises to be a provocative examination of African-American exploitation and what revolution really means.

VS., Nov. 21-Dec. 17, Thu., Fri., Sat. (and Mon., Nov. 21), 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; Live Oak Theatre, 1301 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley; $20-$35; TheatreFirst.com.

 

Published online on Nov. 15, 2016 at 8:00 a.m.

This report was published in the November edition of our sister publication, The East Bay Monthly.

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