Festival Playhouse of Kalamazoo College presents its 58th season, Black is Beautiful: An Ode to Black Life, Love, and Strength. This season will support living Black playwrights by producing their work and support our own community though access to Black narratives that are not tragedy-centric or exploitative of trauma. These upcoming productions use wit, satire and thoughtfully complex storytelling to showcase a variety of intersectional Black experiences.
Our Fall production will be Rachel Lynett’s Well-Intentioned White People, a play that cleverly depicts how the performative activism of predominantly white institutions, like ours, can harm the very community members it attempts to support. In Winter, we will produce Kevin Renn’s BLACKS+PHATS, a vignette-driven satire challenging stereotypes and assumptions about people devalued by society simply because of their bodies. Our season will conclude in Spring with Tarell Alvin McCraney’s Marcus; or the secret of sweet, a Black and queer, heartfelt and humorous, coming-of-age tale.
This season will also include the Senior Performance Series, in which senior Kalamazoo College students write, direct, perform, design, and manage both original and published works. This year’s productions are Unzipped by Rebecca Chan and Acting Shakespeare by Sir Ian McKellen. There will also be a production of The Conviction of Lady Lorraine, written and performed by Dwandra Nickole Lampkin, offered free to our entire community as part of our Martin Luther King, Jr. week celebrations.
Unzipped by Rebecca Chan
October 21-24, 2021
Unzipped, an original show of alternating music and monologues, explores the perception of East Asians in the dominant United States’ culture and Rebecca’s own coming-of-age as a queer Chinese-American. The production will also feature set and projection design from Angela Mammel ’22.
Well-Intentioned White People by Rachel Lynett
November 4-7, 2021
After experiencing an anti-Black hate crime, college professor Cass wants to forget about it and move on with her life. But her white roommate/ex-girlfriend and the dean of the university push her to “do something” about it. Suddenly, Cass is roped into planning an Equality Day/Unity Week while trying to convince her roommate not to plan a sit-in. Well-Intentioned White People explores how liberals attempt to deal with discrimination not directed at them and how sometimes “well intentions” can be just as problematic. The stereotypical white saviors, white liberals, and white allies seem humorously over-exaggerated, but those caricatures aren’t too far, if different at all, from the truth.
The Conviction of Lady Lorraine by Dwandra Nickole Lampkin
January 14-15, 2022
An original one-woman play written and performed by Dwandra Nickole Lampkin.
This production is produced by Festival Playhouse of Kalamazoo College and is offered free to our entire community as part of our Martin Luther King, Jr. week celebrations.
Set in Memphis, TN near the Lorraine Motel where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated—a writer (Lampkin) has a brief but powerful encounter with a homeless woman, Lady Lorraine. She finds herself transformed by Lady Lorraine’s more than 20-year quest to right a social wrong. One year later, the writer returns to Memphis, hoping that Lady Lorraine will share her full story of conviction. But the writer quickly finds herself asking new questions about many things, and realizing that Lady Lorraine is not the only one on a quest for recognition.
Dwandra Nickole Lampkin serves as Associate Professor of Theatre at Western Michigan University, and has been a prolific performer. With a career spanning over two decades, her television credits include Law & Order, Law & Order SVU, Third Watch and Wonderland. She has performed at the Tony Award winning Denver Center Theatre, The Huntington Theatre in Boston, The Human Race Theatre Company in Dayton and the Indiana Repertory Theatre in Indianapolis. The Conviction of Lady Lorraine is directed by Dee Dee Batteast.
Acting Shakespeare by Sir Ian Mckellen
February 10-13, 2022
Matthew Swarthout ’22 will be undertaking Sir Ian McKellen’s one-person show Acting Shakespeare. This show will encompass both Matthew’s and McKellen’s insight into Shakespeare’s plays, featuring monologues and scenes from Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s dream, Hamlet, Macbeth and more.
BLACKS+PHATS by Kevin Renn
February 24-27, 2022
Goldilocks and the Three Bears, the Black Panther Party, and Michael Jackson? BLACKS+PHATS is a satirical, vignette play about Black cultural issues, body image, fetishism, and their representation in modern society. This quick-witted comedy is sure to challenge your mind and tickle your comfort zone, touching on various themes like beauty ideals, relationship dynamics, and levels of attraction–all while attempting to find enlightenment in the stereotypes placed on minorities and full-bodied people.
Marcus; or the Secret of Sweet by Tarell Alvin McCraney
May 12-15, 2022
Marcus is sixteen and “sweet.” Days before Hurricane Katrina strikes the projects of Louisiana, the currents of his life converge, overflowing into his close-knit community and launching the search for his sexual and personal identity in a cultural landscape infused with mysterious family creeds. The provocative, poignant, and fiercely humorous coming-of-age story of a young gay man in the South, Marcus is the stirring conclusion of The Brother/Sister Plays.