“Go sharp, stay sharp.”Wynton, The Royale
Edwin, Roberto, Peter, Erica, and Bechir. All of these incredible actors have turned into a cohesive family, and welcomed me as part part of the ATC team so respectfully and so lovingly. This has been such an amazing experience for me, and I am so sad that this has ended. From the first rehearsal to opening night, I have finally watched my last production of The Royale. Goodbye to those who move onto to bigger and better things in their artistic journeys, as they continue their time in Tucson until September 28 and when the play moves to Phoenix for October 5-20.
As Sean Daniels, ATC’s Artistic Director, says in the program, “Every time I hear it, I am always blown away by Marco’s play, which I think asks the question of what is the cost of progress on the individuals who push for it.” It’s a really great question. We ask this as an audience as we watch Jay’s transformation. We first see him as an ostentatious and selfish boxer who seems to just wants fame, but as the end of the play, we really see that he as a genuine maker of change. As Jay says, “I want to make it right.” But he didn’t know that he unleashed the dogs, the floodgates that were opened by his actions, but as his sister Nina says, “You might want to be a champion, but we might not be ready.”
My husband and I had great center-stage seats in the back of the front row. Every time that I have seen this show, I have always learned something new. In sports history, Jay and Jack Johnson resuscitated in the sport, “You have always been the heavyweight champion of the world. Tomorrow, we just make it official.” Jack Johnson made a massive change in the world, and especially in the negro community.
Late last night, I was watching an episode of the West Wing as Rob Lowe as Sam Seaborne was discussing the law “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” aka to be openly homosexual in the armed forces that has now been repealed. A black Navy admiral enters the room and tells the other soldiers in the army to stand easy. He asks them if they think that gays serving in the army poses a threat to unit discipline and cohesion. He then says, “That’s what I think too. I also think that the military wasn’t designed to be an instrument of social change. The problem with that is that’s what they were saying about me 50 years ago. Blacks shouldn’t serve with whites. It would disrupt the unit. You know what? It did disrupt the unit. The unit got over it. The unit changed. I’m an Admiral in the US Navy and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Beat that with a stick.” Things needed to change! The Royale is part of Wynton’s story where he would be rounded up and blindfolded with seven to eight other black men to fight each other as entertainment for white audiences, and he would fill his pockets with pennies and nickels and would find bloody teeth from other men.
I’ll be honest. I felt that the show wasn’t totally sharp. It made me nervous – the movements to the ring, the choreography, the props, the language, the script, the audibility – as I have seen the play so many times. These elements should be perfect so that the actors onstage can be authentic. On the other hand, I saw the The Royale preview exactly a week ago, and I am really impressed by the improvement and sharpness of the production, in general. The perfectly creative light and the sound designers have really enriched the play. The artists really listened to the previewers, the show’s “huge collaborators” as Sean Daniels said, before opening night on Friday night. It made such a difference to a “punching” and emotionally talented show. From first rehearsal to the opening night, my job was to observe this art!