Bay Are Premiere of The Barber Shop Chronicles

Inua Ellams’ play on black male identity has sold out in many London runs.


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Photo by Marc Brenner

The barbershop lends itself naturally to casual, open conversation. This is why popular play Barber Shop Chronicles’ setting in six barbershops across the world makes the perfect backdrop through which to explore black male identity.

As the cast members get a trim, we are invited into the depths of their personal lives. Written by Nigerian-born, U.K.-based playwright Inua Ellams, the play allows the audience to eavesdrop on barber shop talk in London, Lagos, Johannesburg, Accra, Kampala, and Harare over the course of a single day, illuminated signs on stage indicating which location we are in at that moment.

Conversations range on topics from family to race relations to fatherhood and masculinity. For the black barbershop is more than just a place to get your haircut — with all its rituals and banter, it’s a space for black men to interact, safely. The play is deeply engaging for its political themes of violence and systematic disenfranchisement, but also its sense of humor and joy. Barbershop Chronicles has sold out multiple London runs, and makes its Bay Area premiere at Zellerbach Hall.

Fri.-Sun., Oct. 26-28, 8 p.m., 2 p.m., $15-$78, Zellerbach Hall, 101 Zellerbach Hall #4800, Berkeley, CalPerformances.org.

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