We had a triumphant run at the V & A Museum in London, in 2013.
“A unique and amazing experience…powerful and intensely moving”
–Time Out, London, 2013
“W.E.B. DU BOIS is a largely forgotten figure of African American history. Seventy years before James Meredith’s campaign to be the first African American student to be allowed to study at the University of Mississippi,…Du Bois was graduating cum laude with a second degree from Harvard University. Unlike Meredith and Dr. King, however, Du Bois’ name has mostly been forgotten from the public consciousness of the equal rights struggle in the United States. This one-handed play tells his story from a childhood largely untroubled by prejudice, through struggle and success, to his alienation from the homeland that branded him a Communist….This is a wonderful tale that deserves to be told to a wider audience. The performance left me feeling as though I had skimmed the surface of a story I felt guilty I did not know and wanted to find out more. As a snapshot of a great man told by a performer at the top of his game, this is certainly an hour well spent.”
–Alasdair Richardson, BriadwayBaby.com (Edinburgh Fringe, 2012)
“The life of Civil Rights Activist W.E.B. Du Bois, the history of the period, all this, Richardson brings to life in a way that is never less than compelling, even as he offers many of us a welcome education.”
–David Pollock, The Scotsman, (Edinburgh Festival Fringe, 2012)
“In many ways this is a history lesson more than a drama, but a history lesson that grips you from the moment that Brian Richardson takes the stage. The performance is remarkable with just the slightest facial movement or shake of the hand bringing to life Du Bois the young optimistic student to Du Bois the older statesman refusing to give up his ideals when lesser men would have sat back and taken the plaudits for the remarkable work of his life. … The staging and lighting by the nature of this venue are sparce, but the subject matter and the performance need no more. Credit is also due to playwright and director Alexa Kelly–there is a lot of dense information in this piece but she brings to life this complex character with simple and direct emotionally charged language. … Are there better plays on the fringe? Without a doubt, but very few this year left me so educationally and emotionally stimulated as the life story of this great American hero.”
Jayne Gross, FringeReview (Edinburgh Fringe, 2012)
“In 1951, just eight days before his eighty-third birthday, W. E. B. DuBois is charged with being a foreign agent. Disheartened and discouraged at America’s unwillingness to seek paths of peace instead of war, Du Bois thunders, “Wake up America! Your liberties are being stolen before your very eyes. Wake up Americans, and dare to think and say and do; dare to cry no more war!” Brian Richardson’s electrifying portrayal of William Edward Berghardt Du Bois, here and throughout his performance, is a privilege to experience. Richardson is able to tell Du Bois’ story with conviction and style. He understands who Du Bois was, how he spoke, how he moved, how he used every rhetorical device to persuade his listeners of the importance of social justice.
Du Bois struggled with the “line of color” throughout his life in the United States. This “Veil” never lifted for him and he became an expatriate spending his last years in Accra, Ghana where he died on August 27, 1963. After his death his wife Shirley read the epilogue Du Bois wrote on June 26, 1957. Embodying Du Bois with perfection, Richardson lists those things for which Du Bois lived his passion-filled life:
“My Birthday is a national holiday on Mainland China, my homeland knows me not. At the ripe age of 98, I can honestly say that I have dedicated my life to the following goals: Abolition of poverty, No exploitation of labor, free medical care for all, free education for all, job training, and jobs for all, and no dogmatic religion.”
As Bryan Richardson shares this touching epilogue, he is stooped, holding a cane, a completely different Du Bois than he was at 16, 29, or 39. This brilliant actor knows, as he delivers these lines, what is going through the minds of every member of the audience: America has yet to wake up, yet to dare to think or say or do, yet to dare to cry no more war. There are far too many Americans living below the poverty line. Governors across the United States are doing all they can to bust unions and reverse all advances made by labor. There is not only no free medical care for all in America; there is no medical care for all at an affordable rate. We still have no idea how to properly educate our children in the United States; our drop-out rates from high schools are alarming and far too many good teachers are retiring to avoid the bureaucratic abuse from local and federal governments. Our unemployment rates skyrocket and we seem on the brink of financial disaster. Finally, we consistently allow dogmatic religion to interfere with the legislative process. The Roman Catholic Church is doing all it can, spend all it can, lobby all it can to prevent Equal Marriage from becoming law.
What would Du Bois say if he were alive today? The same thing he said at the close of his epilogue: “These [goals] are not crimes. Without them to nation can be free. We have nothing to lose but our chains.” This nation is not really free and we seem to prefer our chains to our true freedom. Hopefully, the legacy of Du Bois can reawaken us to the passion we need to overcome.
Alexa Kelly’s well-written script is compelling. But it is Brian Richardson’s understanding of rhetoric that moves the script to dazzling success.”
–A MAN FOR ALL TIMES: W. E. B. DU BOIS
Written and directed by Alexa Kelly. Featuring Brian Richardson.
Reviewed by David Roberts, Chief Critic, Theatre Reviews Limited, At 59E59 Theater C, (New York City, 2012)
“One of the most surprising and insightful evenings I’ve had at the theatre”
David Rothenberg, WBAI Radio (New York City)
“A Stellar performance of a great man’s life”
L. Lopardi, Artzine.org (New York City)