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Black Panther Project: Theatre in the X and Iron Age Theatre

Feb 28, 2018

In February 2018, Theatre Philadelphia hosted the city's first Philly Theatre Week. Here's a recap of just one of the 80 events that took place around the region!

Black Panther Project: Theatre in the X and Iron Age Theatre
By Devonte Grant

Iron Age Theatre collaborated with Theatre in the X to present a play detailing the Black Panther Party. This oral history project offered insight to the livelihood of the Black Panthers, and spoke to the history and significance of the Black Panther Party. The performance took place in an intimate setting at the Community Education Center in West Philadelphia.

The play focused on the lives of the Panthers, but addressed how the Black Panthers were perceived versus who they actually were. The setting of the play was unorthodox. It was situated in what seemed to be a classroom or town hall, yet the actors managed to take you into the entire world of the Black Panthers, through San Francisco and beyond, through their stellar acting and chemistry.

Structured as a series of interactions and anecdotal monologues, each actor had someone's story to tell. Each story chronicled their character’s experiences, depicted in a meeting setting as they all interacted with each other. They told stories of everything from humor, police raids, and day-to-day operations. Though not directly portrayed, the play frequently made reference to the founding members of the Black Panther Party, Huey Newton and Bobby Seale, as well as chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party, Fred Hampton. It incorporated the importance of the Black Panther Party’s free breakfast program, and the overall ideology of the Black Panther Party.

The anecodotes eventually explained why the Black Panther Party took the direction it did, dissolving in the 1980s. While simultaneously addressing and dispelling stereotypes, Black Panther Project is a must see. Upon leaving, a clearer understanding of the life of a Black Panther was gained.

This play is also significant as it opens up a greater conversation. The Black Panther Party is typically typecast as being a solely one dimensional militant group, when in reality they were much more than that. This play is hopefully one of many that will break that mold. Focusing on the humanity of the Black Panther Party shows that they were honorable people who wanted civil rights and equality. As the theatre scene grows more diverse in cultures and backgrounds, it is great to see topics once stereotyped and ignored now being given a proper light. Iron Age Theatre and Theatre In The X cast that light on the Black Panther Party with the Black Panther Project.

What's next?

Coming next from Iron Age Theatre is “Juneteenth” on June 16, celebrating Black History in Norristown, PA.

Visit Theatre in the X to learn more about upcoming productions.