Sunday, July 2, 2017

Validation of the creative process and mind.

There must be something in the water or the food I've eaten since a few days ago when I posted my bi-annual blog.  But I was on the internet doing some research; looking for some reviews on some of my plays.  I came across an article that was a scholarly study done in the early 1990's on the effects of Black men in Vietnam.  That's great because I'm a Vietnam veteran who mostly keeps it confidential because people don't seem to be interested in looking back at or studying that time of military and racial animosity mainly  because it was a dark time for America dealing with a very unpopular war.  But what surprised me the most about this article entitled  A White Man's War: Race Issues and Vietnam was the fact that my fictional play, "L.B.J. (Long Bien Jail)" was quoted extensively throughout the massive scholarly document.  What an honor!  What a surprise! What an epiphany!  I'm sure I gave my permission for one of the authors to quote from my play, but knowing how low-keyed I've been with accolades and awards from my many plays, I never thought of using it to market or promote myself; possibly even forgetting about it.  Probably to my own detriment; keeping me off theater honoring websites and theater producers contact list.  But I was told many years ago that the "work" will always find its way and the playwright doesn't always have to spend a lot of timing crowing about what a good writer they are.  LOL!  That's somewhat true, but it also can be a way to keep producers and artistic directors from searching out someone they've never heard of.  Oh well... Anyway, I'm so proud of this old study.  I actually cut and pasted nine pages of a 165 page dissertation.  And I'm posting it on this blog.  


Vietnam Generation Volume 1 Number 2 A White Man's War: Race Issues and Vietnam Article 1 4-1989 A White Man's War: Race Issues and Vietnam William M. King
Three plays by black veterans, set in-country during the peak of racial tensions in 1968, dramatize the anger and the frustration of black soldiers who consider themselves patriotic Americans, but who find themselves at odds with the society for which they are fighting. Fred Gamel’s Wasted (1984) involves a fragging plot on the night that troops in Vietnam learned of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. Charles Michael Moore’s The Hooch (1978) takes place several weeks after King’s death, as inter-racial tension between bunkmates builds toward violence. Jamal’s LBJ (1986) recreates one of the most infamous prison riots in Army history in which 200 black inmates gained control of Long Binh Jail and injured scores of white prisoners. In all three plays, black moderates are tom between a moral vision of racial tolerance and an emotional bond with their militant brothers. In Wasted, a black sergeant named Bassett must decide whether or not he will conceal a plot by one of his men to frag a white “nigger-hating” sergeant in symbolic retaliation for the death of Martin Luther King, Jr. In a climactic scene, Bassett vents the frustration of a moral man and a loyal citizen fighting in a war he knows is no longer 46 Vietnam Generation his own: What’s supposed to be eating me...a leader of my people gets wasted in the land of the PX, nobody even sends word of it to us at the firebase...we get a deadhead nigger-hater for a platoon sergeant.... I’m fighting a war for a country where I’m a second-class citizen...and I'm supposed to sail on like nothing’s ever been wrong in my life.38 Although Bassett remains reluctant to halt the fragging of a white racist, he must eventually shoot a black soldier to end the escalating tension on the base camp. Charles Michael Moore’s The Hooch is also set within a basecamp tense over racial issues, where black grunts guard a military radar unit controlled by while technicians. The symbolic significance of this hierarchy is unveiled late in the play when a black soldier discovers that the equipment on the hill, which the whites have carefully hidden and which the blacks are expected to give their lives to protect, is a worthless invention which has never worked and which the white technicians do not know how to repair. The radar unit on the hill, like America’s involvement in Vietnam, is unveiled as a white man’s cause, and a worthless one at that, for which blacks are expected to die. The black soldier who discovers this folly is a radar specialist— the first black to hold such a position on this base. His name is Corporal Promus (i.e.. Promise), and he is a redemptive figure of high moral fortitude, racial tolerance, and intelligence. In revealing the false god on the hill, he manages to disarm the aggression building between blacks and whites in camp. His philosophy is a simple one: “What goes around, comes around.” He convinces a fellow black soldier not to sink to the level of the white racists by shooting a white corporal who they believe has killed one of the black grunts. In Jamal’s LBJ, an unlikely inter-racial trio of prisoners band together in the face of certain death by rampaging black inmates. Wade is a level-headed but independent-minded black who has made an enemy of Big Man, the dangerous leader of the rioters. Wade is forced to share a hiding place with Chacon, a Chicano who is generally friendly with neither whites nor blacks, and Christopherson, a white pacifist. These three are trapped together inside Long Birth Jail during the race riots of 1968. By calling an end to their petty differences and combining forces, they defeat Big Man and his murderous cohort. Weasel. The message, as in The Hooch and Wasted is one of interracial solidarity and tolerance as an alternative to white or black extremism. Soldados Razos 47 Juxtaposed against the moderate protagonists in all three of these plays are black militants who find themselves driven to acts of violence against whites by a system which refuses to recognize their rights. “They make you prove it to them, Bro,” Chacon laments in LBJ. “They hate to give you your respect."39 In Wasted, the hot-headed Spider Evans, who joined the military in lieu of a prison sentence for assault, plots against the white sergeant who has made his distaste for blacks well known. In The Hooch, short-timer Horus Brown plans to kill a white soldier who he believes has murdered one of his men. Brown looks upon relationships with whites in terms of war. He tells Promus he wants blacks to “infiltrate" all areas of white military duty because, in his words, “this is war.”40 His white counterpart, Seebold, believes that the army is training blacks to kill whites. “These people are at war with us,” he tells another white technician. These images of races at war accurately reflect the conditions in Vietnam as described by numerous veterans in interviews between 1968 and 1973.41 Some veterans expressed the concern that blacks in Vietnam saw the real war as one they would fight, with their new and deadly skills, on the streets of America. “The big question," one black GI told the New York Times, “is whether the black cat can walk like a dragon here in South Vietnam and like a fairy back in the land of the big PX.”42 In LBJ, Big Man claims that the war “has been giving the real brothers the experience they'll need when they get back home." Vietnam is giving me an education: a chance to leam about life. Ain’t my fault the man turned loose the beast over here. You, me, Weasel and 500,000 more. He thought he would ride the back of this beast making it do his killing, blindly, obediently. And he’s been riding it into the ground. But then he forgot something...one day he had to get off that beast's back and when he does...(laughs] The beast would still be hungiy and the man would be devoured. Wallace Terry, Jr. notes, as does Thomas Johnson in the New York Times, that black militant groups were not uncommon in Vietnam. The Black Panthers, the JuJus, the MauMaus, and the Zulu 1200s were all represented. “I dig the militant brothers,” one black soldier told Terry. “Non-violence didn't do anything but get Martin Luther King killed."43 Many black veterans returned from Vietnam to communities where the rate of unemployment for blacks was “at least three times the national average” and where the unemployment rate for blacks between 20 and 25 (the age of most veterans) “was likely to be eight or nine times the national average.”44 In the words of playwright Tom 48 Vietnam Generation Cole’s Medal of Honor winner, DJ, the average black veteran became “just another invisible Nigger, waiting on line and getting shit on just for being there."45 Many black vets, like Spec 4 Anthony Brazil in Stephen Mack Jones’ Back in the World (1984), found that Vietnam had trained them for one job only: So here I am. right? At home. Back in Indianapolis. Back in the world. If you can call Indianapolis “the world." And all I'm trained to do is kill. Twenty years old now and that's all I know how to do. Not exactly the kind of thing you put on a resume.... Two months later. I re-up. Four months, I'm back in the ‘Nam. Don't need no resume. No references.46 Combat veterans could expect to be pressured about reenlistment while still in Vietnam, or approached back in the States by National Guard or State Police forces who hoped to use them as riot control troops. Although many veterans accepted service with these organizations, the outcome was often further racial confrontation. Wallace Terry, Jr. cites at least one instance in which 43 black soldiers from Fort Hood. Texas, refused an assignment at the Democratic National Convention for fear of being ordered to battle the black youth of Chicago.47 Black vets were also solicited by militant groups eager to capitalize on their battle training and their escalating resentment of white America. In 1968, Bobby Seale said veterans had been steadily joining the ranks of the Oakland Black Panthers: that same year, Clarence Guthrie of the Zulu 1200s estimated that about one-third of his members were vets. The majority of black vets interviewed by the New York Times said they were opposed to the war. Many said they would never fight for the United States again. One black vet expressed the intensity of the rage felt by many of his brothers: “I find myself hating this [white] man so much that [Uncle] Sam couldn’t kill me, melt me, or pour me back into the Army or back into the Nam."48 Despite such sentiments, there were only scattered incidences of “insane veterans’ militancy" in the wake of the war, and most of the violence came, not from black veterans, but from right-wing white mercenaries and KKK veterans.49 Two plays, both by non-veterans, directly address the helplessness, rage and resentment experienced by black veterans upon their return to civilian life. Black playwright Adrienne Kennedy’s AnEvening withDeadEssex{ 1973) and Tom Cole’s Medal of Honor Rag (1975) are both based on true stories of black veterans who met with violent ends after their return to the United States. Kennedy’s play recounts the death of 23-year-old Mark Essex Soldados R azos 49 in Januaiy 1973. Firing his high-powered rifle from the roof of a New Orleans Howard Johnson, Essex carried on a 32 hour shooting spree in which seven people were killed and 21 others wounded. He was eventually overcome by 40 police sharpshooters and a military helicopter; over 100 bullets were found in his body. In what amounts to more of a memorial service or documentary than a conventional drama. An Evening with Dead Essex attempts to reach a sympathetic understanding of the events which led a young black man of highly spiritual upbringing to randomly gun down passers-by from the roof of a hotel. A company of black actors use quotations from Essex’s family and friends, stories of his youth and his military service, pictures from his life and from the day of his death, and fabricated testimony to summon the spirit of dead Essex. Essex is revealed as an innocent Kansas youth, deeply religious, who believed in the benevolence of his white neighbors and in the goodness of God and country. While serving in the Navy, Essex’s profound faith was shattered by the cruel bigotry of the white military hierarchy. Kennedy’s play relates how Essex comes to believe that white men are his enemy, that America is the white man’s country, and that Christianity is a “white man’s religion.” According to Kennedy, it is the subversion of Essex’s faith which makes him pursue, with religious zeal, the destruction of the society which has brutally betrayed him. Although Essex served in San Diego, not Vietnam, his death is presented by Kennedy (as it was viewed by the American press in 1973) as an emblem of the brutality which the Vietnam war had brought to America’s streets. Kennedy illustrates the militarization of civilian culture with two news clippings, recited in sequence by an actor: 1972—B-52 bombers made their biggest raid on the Vietnam war demilitarized zone to date dropping nearly 200 tons of bombs. 1973—at 9:25PM the helicopters lumbered past again. (Pause] When the sharpshooters opened fire, a slight figure, rifle in hand, bolted into the open. Trapped in a withering crossfire between the helicopter overhead and marksmen in two adjacent buildings, Jimmy Essex was literally ripped apart by at least a hundred bullets. The police kept firing even after he went down, his body twitching with the impact of each slug and his rifle shattered beside him.50 Because the actor finishes the first quotation and begins reading the second before pausing, the distinction between the two events—the 50 Vietnam Generation bombing in Vietnam and the violent death in New Orleans—is blurred. As one of the actors comments, the two events “very much continue into each other”51 and the war in Vietnam becomes indistinguishable from the violence on America’s streets. Elsewhere in the play, one of the actors speaks with shocking directness on the significance of Mark Essex’s death to the black community. He speaks for a generation of black veterans, many of whom feel betrayed by their country, and who see Essex as a spokesman and a martyr: About a year ago five of us ex-G.I.s were arrested.... They said we had a plot to kill all white people. We didn’t. But we did meet in the cellar almost every day and talk, just talk. We wished we had a plot to kill white people—we had a lot to say to each other—about our confusion about the deep racial significance of the war between the U.S. and Viet Nam. white against non-white—about our joblessness—we did want to kill but we had no plot—we had a lot to say and we still have a lot to say—about Mark Essex—to us he is a hero—we believe he was carrying a banner—we believe he saw himself as a soldier of mercy—we have a lot to say about dead Essex.52 While few would readily recognize a sniper, randomly firing at pedestrians, as either victim or martyr, Adrienne Kennedy’s play draws attention to the tragic stature of the “slight figure” on the roof. She successfully creates a documentary image of an innocent young man from Kansas who enters the Navy in order to serve his God and his country, and who is transformed into a genocidal killer by the bigotry and racial hatred he finds there. Mark Essex’s acts of violence and racial hatred may have made him an unlikely subject for sympathetic dramatic portrayal. By contrast, Dwight Johnson, fictionally characterized as DJ in Tom Cole’s Medal of Honor Rag, immediately captured the sympathy of the American public in 1971 when he was shot to death while robbing a grocery store in his home town of Detroit. Unlike Essex, who chose violence to express his personal sense of rage, Johnson ran from the rage he had found within himself in Vietnam. Johnson returns from Vietnam to find he is unemployable. Trained to kill, he feels roughly discarded alter his service to his country. As recounted in the play, DJ's tour of duty in Vietnam ends suddenly and dramatically with a firefight in which he single-handedly wipes out an entire North Vietnamese unit after witnessing the deaths of his closest friends. In a mortal frenzy, DJ is dragged from the scene Soldados R azos 51 of the battle and tranquilized. Within 48 hours, he is on a plane headed for Detroit with a medical discharge. Several months later, two MPs suddenly appear at DJ’s door and question his mother about his activities. He is asked to take another sudden plane ride, this time from the Detroit ghetto he calls home to the White House, where he is awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. DJ expresses the bitter irony of his country's treatment of him: "Yesterday afternoon for all they knew I was a junkie on the streets, today the President of the United States can’t wait to see me....”53 The country that exploits his services as a trained killer, then throws him back into the ghetto, now needs him again. DJ becomes the token black hero at an awards ceremony conceived of by the Johnson administration to counteract the war's bad press. Despite the obvious status and social mobility which the medal offers DJ, he cannot help but see it as a reward for acts of violence which he considers heinous. “I got that medal,” he tells his psychiatrist, “because I went totally out of my fucking skull and killed everything in sight.”54 He fears that he may again lose control of himself and repeat his violence in his home town. “Man, if I lose my cool again— just, freak out,” DJ asks, “what’s to stop me from going up and down the streets of Detroit killing everything I see?”55 Though DJ feels that the medal brands him as a crazed killer, he cannot reject it without disgracing his family, his community, and the black race. The prestige which accompanies the medal reflects not only on DJ, but on the community at large: I am an authentic hero, a showpiece. One look at me, enlistments go up two hundred percent.... I am a credit to my race. Did you know that? I am an honor to the city of Detroit, to say nothing of the state of Michigan, of which I am the only living Medal of Honor winner! I am a feather in the cap of the army, a flower in the lapel of the military.56 In need of someone to pass judgement on him, DJ enters a grocery store in a white section of Detroit. He has a pistol, but never fires it as the white cashier pulls his gun from behind the counter and shoots him repeatedly. In the words of the real Dwight Johnson’s mother, he “tired of this life and needed someone else to pull the trigger.”57 Medal of Honor Rag and An Evening with Dead Essex were written at a time when the Vietnam war was still a gaping wound in the lives of most veterans. In the early 1970s, the vast majority of vets did not dare to speak of their war experiences, let alone express their confusion and hatred on the stage. Among veterans of this period, only David Rabe chose the stage as a means of openly venting his anger. His 52 Vietnam Generation vitriolic anti-American plays. Sticks and Bones and The Basic Training o/Pavlo Hummel raised great controversy and resentment when they were produced in 1971, alienating far more people than they converted. But Rabe was the exception, and several years passed before other veterans took to the stage. Of the veteran plays discussed in this essay. Sierra’s Manolo and Escueta’s Honey Bucket (both produced regionally in 1976) were the first to appear. These works portray Vietnam veterans who survive the war only to self-destruct after returning to their homes. Manolo is a crime-world melodrama in which a Latino soldier returns unscratched from Vietnam only to find that his mother has died in his absence and that his little brother has been stabbed to death by a neighborhood pusher. Manolo dies taking his revenge on the pusher who would never have come to power in his neighborhood if Manolo had not been sent to Vietnam. Andy, the veteran protagonist in Escueta’s Honey Bucket, finds his recurrent flashbacks of Vietnam far more vivid than his real life. He is haunted throughout the play by the ghosts of his friends who died in battle. At the end of Honey Buckel Andy, alienated from his wife and family, speeds out of control on his motorcycle while his dead companions encourage his suicide with screams of “Come on home,” and “You’re better off with your buddies." Both Escueta and Sierra make it clear that death could seem the only way out for troubled minority veterans of this period. Plays by black veterans from the late 1970s and into the 1980s still express the anger and despair of the immediate postwar years. But the sense of hopelessness and of hatred, directed both at whites and inward at the self, has evolved in these plays into a positive, sometimes therapeutic energy. The Hooch, Wasted, and LBJ advance the portrait of a protagonist who transcends the racial hatred of his companions, black and white, and offers hope of tolerance and racial harmony. The placement of this type of character at the heart of these plays suggest that veteran playwrights are attempting to instill their Vietnam experience with a sense of redemption in order to leave behind their lingering rage. The evolution of Escueta’s Honey Bucket offers an excellent example of the conversion of anger and hopelessness into therapeutic regeneration. After the first production in 1976, Escueta frequently revised the play until in 1982, having determined that isolation and death were not the only way out for his veteran protagonist, Escueta rewrote the final scene so that Andy lives. Instead of urging Andy toward suicide, the ghosts of his dead comrades cease to haunt him, granting him permission to start living again. The play in its revised form still contains a strong message about a Filipino veteran’s anger at America’s treatment of minorities, but Honey Bucket is now Soldados R azos U therapeutic rather than destructive. Instead of promoting the image of an inevitable dead-end. the play speaks of a veteran making the long mental journey back to the World. That same therapeutic journey and re-emergence can be found in Jones’s Back in the World. (1988). In a series of monologues, much like a veterans’ rap session, five black vets tell their stories in turn while the others listen and occasionally comment. Some part of each of these characters is still trapped in Vietnam. Among them are the man who refuses to believe the war is over, insisting it could still be won if ignorant liberals would not interfere; the soldier who searches photographs of Saigon for the Vietnamese wife and child he was forced to leave behind; and, the exile who lives in Belgium with his white wife and his children. In each of these characters, one can sense a powerful desire to “come home”. Sharing their stories, they help each other approach that end. A letter from a stateside friend (a disabled veteran), read by the exile, expresses this common desire: “I wish to God you’d save me some postage and come home. For better or worse, America is home, James. And if you can’t stand proud at home, it’s hard to do it anywhere else in the world.” While the individual monologues all conclude on a similar note of longed-for homecoming and healing, the play is open-ended. The final lines are spoken by the one character who will never be able to return to the World. He is a homeless veteran, known only as The Man, who is first seen curled up with his radio in an alley. He lives on the edge, struggling each day with the flashbacks that send him screaming for cover. He tells us that he works occasionally with “black kids off the street” at a local community center: “Trying to help 'um, you know, make somethin’ outta theyselves." He wants the present generation of young ghetto dwellers—a generation facing an all-time high unemployment rate for black youths58—to see what has happened to him, and to be sure that they never allow themselves to be swept without question into war by a government promising to reverse “the downward spiral of decay” for minorities. The Man’s message to the present generation of draft-age minorities recalls young Johnny’s words to his Vietnam era friends: “Please,” Johnny writes to his mother, “tell Sapo and all the vatos how it’s like over here. Don’t let them...”59 But his warning is cut short by a bullet to the head, fired by the gleeful figure of Muerte as he sings the ballad of “El Soldado Razo.” 1 1 Luis Valdez, Vietnam Campesino, in Ados (Fresno, CA: Cucaracha Press) 1971: 117. Hereafter, Valdez, Vietnam. 2 Ibid: 108. 54 Vietnam Generation 3 Charles Fuller, A Soldier's Play (New York: Hill & Wang) 1981: 28, 72. Hereafter, Fuller. 4 Ibid.: 90. 5 Thomas A. Johnson, “The US Negro in Vietnam," The New York Times , April 29, 1968: 16. Hereafter, NYT, 4/29/68. 6 August Wilson, Fences (New York: New American Library) 1986: 94. 7 “Democracy in the Foxhole,” Time, May 26, 1967: 15. 8 Ibid.: 1 9 Ibid.: 15. 10 Luis Valdez. Soldado Razo, in West Coast Plays 19/20 (Los Angeles: California Theatre Council) 1986: 62. Hereafter, Valdez, Soldado. 11 Ibid.: 56. 12 Ibid. 13 NYT, 4/29/68: 16. 14 All quotations from Jonathan Greenberg, Casualties (unpublished script) 1987. First produced February, 1987 at TheatreWorks, Palo Alto, CA. 15 MyraMacPherson, Long Time Passing: Vietnam and the Haunted Generation (Garden City, NY: Doubleday) 1984: 559. Hereafter, MacPherson. 16 NYT, 4/29/68: 16. 17 Wallace Terry. Jr., “Bringing the War Home," The Black Scholar (2:3), November 1970: 12. Hereafter, Terry. 18 MacPherson: 560. 19 Whitney M. Young, “When the Negroes in Vietnam Come Home,” Harper's, June 1967: 66. Hereafter, Young. 20 Paul Starr, The Discarded Army: Veterans After Vietnam (New York: Charterhouse) 1973: 190. Hereafter, Starr. 21 MacPherson: 559. 22 MacPherson, citing a 1970 Defense Department Study: 559. 23 Terry: 12. 24 Young: 66. 25 Terry: 7. 26 David Rabe, Streamers, in Coming toTerms: American Play s&the Vietnam War, James Reston, ed. (New York: Theatre Communications Group) 1985: 32. Hereafter, Rabe. 27 Terry: 15. 28 Ibid: 11. 29 Terry: 14. 30 Rabe: 16. 31 Thomas A. Johnson, “Negro in Vietnam Uneasy about US," New York Times. May 1, 1968: 14. Hereafter, NYT, 5/1/68. 32 Quoted in Starr: 193. 33 Terry: 7. 34 Thomas A. Johnson, “Negro Veteran is Confused and Bitter,” New York Times, July 29. 1968: 14. Hereafter, NYT, 7/29/68. 35 All quotations are from Melvyn Escueta, Honey Bucket (unpublished script in two drafts, 1976 & 1988). First produced October 1976 at the Asian American Theatre, San Francisco, CA. 36 Young: 64. Soldanos Razos 55 37 NYT, 7/19/68: 14. 3 Fred Gamel, Wasted, In The Best Mays of 1983-1984, Otis L. Guernsey, Jr., ed. (New York; Dodd, Mead) 1984: 55. 39 All quotations from Jamal, LBJ(unpublished script) 1968. First produced January 1986 by SEW/Lorraine Hansbeny Theater at the San Francisco Repertory Theater. 40 All quotations from Charles Michael Moore, The Hooch (unpublished script) 1978. First produced May 1984 at the New Federal Theater, New York City. 41 As well as the examples cited from the New York Times (1968) and from Terry (1970), these attitudes are expressed in interviews with veterans in David F. Addlestone and Susan Sherer, “Battleground: Race in Viet Nam," Civil Rights, February 1973. 42 NYT, 5/1/68: 1. 43 Terry: 14. 44 NYT, 7/29/68: 14. 4 5 Tom Cole, Medal of Honor Rag, in Coming to Terms: American Plays and the Vietnam War, James Reston, ed. (New York: Theatre Communications Group) 1985: 146. Hereafter, Cole. 46 All quotations from Stephen Mack Jones, Back in the World (unpublished manuscript) 1988. First produced April 1987 at the Attic Theater, Detroit. Produced in its current form October 1988 by the Vietnam Veterans Ensemble Theatre Company, New York City. 47 Terry: 10. 48 NYT, 7/29/68: 14. 49 MacPherson: 568. 50 Adrienne Kennedy, An Evening with Dead Essex, Theater (9:2), Spring 1978: 71. 51 Ibid. 52 Ibid.: 67-68. 53 Cole: 142. 54 Ibid.: 143. 55 Ibid.: 141. 56 Ibid.: 126. 5 John Nordheimer, “From Dakto to Detroit: Death of a Troubled Hero," New York Times, May 26 1971: 16. 58 MacPherson: 554. 59 Valdez, Soldada 65. FORQOTTEN WARRiORS: AlMERiCAIN iNdiAN

46 Vietnam Generation his own: What’s supposed to be eating me...a leader of my people gets wasted in the land of the PX, nobody even sends word of it to us at the flrebase...we get a deadhead nigger-hater for a platoon sergeant.... I’m fighting a war for a country where I’m a second-class citizen...and I'm supposed to sail on like nothing’s ever been wrong in my life.38 Although Bassett remains reluctant to halt the fragging of a white racist, he must eventually shoot a black soldier to end the escalating tension on the base camp. Charles Michael Moore’s The Hooch is also set within a basecamp tense over racial issues, where black grunts guard a military radar unit controlled by while technicians. The symbolic significance of this hierarchy is unveiled late in the play when a black soldier discovers that the equipment on the hill, which the whites have carefully hidden and which the blacks are expected to give their lives to protect, is a worthless invention which has never worked and which the white technicians do not know how to repair. The radar unit on the hill, like America’s involvement in Vietnam, is unveiled as a white man’s cause, and a worthless one at that, for which blacks are expected to die. The black soldier who discovers this folly is a radar specialist— the first black to hold such a position on this base. His name is Corporal Promus (i.e.. Promise), and he is a redemptive figure of high moral fortitude, racial tolerance, and intelligence. In revealing the false god on the hill, he manages to disarm the aggression building between blacks and whites in camp. His philosophy is a simple one: “What goes around, comes around.” He convinces a fellow black soldier not to sink to the level of the white racists by shooting a white corporal who they believe has killed one of the black grunts. In Jamal’s LBJ, an unlikely inter-racial trio of prisoners band together in the face of certain death by rampaging black inmates. Wade is a level-headed but independent-minded black who has made an enemy of Big Man, the dangerous leader of the rioters. Wade is forced to share a hiding place with Chacon, a Chicano who is generally friendly with neither whites nor blacks, and Christopherson, a white pacifist. These three are trapped together inside Long Birth Jail during the race riots of 1968. By calling an end to their petty differences and combining forces, they defeat Big Man and his murderous cohort. Weasel. The message, as in The Hooch and Wasted is one of interracial solidarity and tolerance as an alternative to white or black extremism.
Soldados Razos 47 Juxtaposed against the moderate protagonists in all three of these plays are black militants who find themselves driven to acts of violence against whites by a system which refuses to recognize their rights. “They make you prove it to them, Bro,” Chacon laments in LBJ. “They hate to give you your respect."39 In Wasted, the hot-headed Spider Evans, who joined the military in lieu of a prison sentence for assault, plots against the white sergeant who has made his distaste for blacks well known. In The Hooch, short-timer Horus Brown plans to kill a white soldier who he believes has murdered one of his men. Brown looks upon relationships with whites in terms of war. He tells Promus he wants blacks to “infiltrate" all areas of white military duty because, in his words, “this is war.”40 His white counterpart, Seebold, believes that the army is training blacks to kill whites. “These people are at war with us,” he tells another white technician. These images of races at war accurately reflect the conditions in Vietnam as described by numerous veterans in interviews between 1968 and 1973.41 Some veterans expressed the concern that blacks in Vietnam saw the real war as one they would fight, with their new and deadly skills, on the streets of America. “The big question," one black GI told the New York Times, “is whether the black cat can walk like a dragon here in South Vietnam and like a fairy back in the land of the big PX.”42 In LBJ, Big Man claims that the war “has been giving the real brothers the experience they'll need when they get back home." Vietnam is giving me an education: a chance to leam about life. Ain’t my fault the man turned loose the beast over here. You, me, Weasel and 500,000 more. He thought he would ride the back of this beast making it do his killing, blindly, obediently. And he’s been riding it into the ground. B u tthen he forgot something...one day he had to get off that beast's back and when he does...(laughs] The beast would still be hungiy and the man would be devoured. Wallace Terry, Jr. notes, as does Thomas Johnson in the New York Times, that black militant groups were not uncommon in Vietnam. The Black Panthers, the JuJus, the MauMaus, and the Zulu 1200s were all represented. “I dig the militant brothers,” one black soldier told Terry. “Non-violence didn't do anything but get Martin Luther King killed."43 Many black veterans returned from Vietnam to communities where the rate of unemployment for blacks was “at least three times the national average” and where the unemployment rate for blacks between 20 and 25 (the age of most veterans) “was likely to be eight or nine times the national average.”44 In the words of playwright Tom 48 V ietnam Generation Cole’s Medal of Honor winner, DJ, the average black veteran became “just another invisible Nigger, waiting on line and getting shit on just for being there."45 Many black vets, like Spec 4 Anthony Brazil in Stephen Mack Jones’ Back in the World (1984), found that Vietnam had trained them for one job only: So here I am. right? At home. Back in Indianapolis. Back in the world. If you can call Indianapolis “the world." And all I'm trained to do is kill. Twenty years old now and that's all I know how to do. Not exactly the kind of thing you put on a resume.... Two months later. I re-up. Four months, I'm back in the ‘Nam. Don't need no resume. No references.46 Combat veterans could expect to be pressured about reenlistment while still in Vietnam, or approached back in the States by National Guard or State Police forces who hoped to use them as riot control troops. Although many veterans accepted service with these organizations, the outcome was often further racial confrontation. Wallace Terry, Jr. cites at least one instance in which 43 black soldiers from Fort Hood. Texas, refused an assignment at the Democratic National Convention for fear of being ordered to battle the black youth of Chicago.47 Black vets were also solicited by militant groups eager to capitalize on their battle training and their escalating resentment of white America. In 1968, Bobby Seale said veterans had been steadily joining the ranks of the Oakland Black Panthers: that same year, Clarence Guthrie of the Zulu 1200s estimated that about one-third of his members were vets. The majority of black vets interviewed by the New York Times said they were opposed to the war. Many said they would never fight for the United States again. One black vet expressed the intensity of the rage felt by many of his brothers: “I find myself hating this [white] man so much that [Uncle] Sam couldn’t kill me, melt me, or pour me back into the Army or back into the Nam."48 Despite such sentiments, there were only scattered incidences of “insane veterans’ militancy" in the wake of the war, and most of the violence came, not from black veterans, but from right-wing white mercenaries and KKK veterans.49 Two plays, both by non-veterans, directly address the helplessness, rage and resentment experienced by black veterans upon their return to civilian life. Black playwright Adrienne Kennedy’s AnEvening withDeadEssex{ 1973) and Tom Cole’s Medal of Honor Rag (1975) are both based on true stories of black veterans who met with violent ends after their return to the United States. 


Friday, June 23, 2017

Black book of black monologues

Time for another blog; about two years late.  But who cares but me.  LOL!  I have finally published my first book and it's a book of black monologues from fifteen of the plays I've written.  Knowing that there is a definite need for a book such as this, I'm hoping that enough people hear of it and buy it.  Funny though, I'm suddenly faced with being at a dilemma:  should I return to concentrating on writing prose (novels, short stories, screenplays) as my main focus?  In my play writing career I've accomplished completing over 30 full lengths plays and a number of short plays as well. Just the process of putting my book of monologues together as reawaken my prose muse and he's raging to get out and finish the two novels I've actually worked on for over 30 years.  Damn, that's a long time.  Anyway, Amazon Books published my collection as of yesterday entitled: Black Voices from the Underground.  Hope it gets out in circulation because I know I'm filling a need that is not addressed in Samuel French or any other book store that offers theatrical works.  But we shall see if I'll be disappointed again.






Monday, March 30, 2015

ELIZABETH'S PRECIOUS KITTY ABOUT TO MAKE A WORLD PREMIERE IN NEW YORK CITY

Disclaimer alert!   This is another one of my "controversial themed" play is about to make a WORLD PREMIERE in NYC.  Should I be apologizing for writing a psychological drama about a virgin dominatrix?  Though some of my closest friends don't quite know how to react to E.P.K. as the play is called because they think it may be offensive (Dominatrix) or maybe even pornographic and maybe has a evil demon (Panner) as the antagonist.  Oh well...what is a playwright to do?   LOL!

And so it begins...again. Creating a theatrical event is not only a collaboration between the cast and production crew, but also the Community of supporters, friends, and good theater lovers. Check out our Facebook Page and our booster info.  Check out our Facebook page and "like" to show your support.





Saturday, November 29, 2014

Forgive me for I have sin because it's been a long damn time since the last time I put up a post on my Blog. LOL! I wanted to cut and paste an old email I sent to a very important influence in my theater career, Mr. John Henry Doyle, who passed away last year. I'm finally back in New York and away from Atlanta for the first time in the last six years. Back to my creativity. :)

Below is the very poignant email message I sent to John Doyle in 2007. It says it all: to jhdoyle98 Hey John, Just got to the computer and don't have a lot of time. I've attachment my bio with a picture of me. As for the article. Bay Area Black Writer in Self-induced Exile.

  As I write from my computer sitting on the top floor of a Brooklyn brownstone, I have taken a few moments to reflect on the artistic journey that has sent me back to the place where I was born so many years ago. I still vehemently think of myself as a straight-up-and-down black writer from San Francisco even though I packed my household belongings, my children, my books, and bags and headed to the next artistic level (Los Angeles!!!) almost fifteen years ago. As a black playwright weaned at the San Francisco Black Writers Workshop, I had seen my career move from self-producing my own first play, "Bloodline to Oblivion" at the Western Addition Cultural Center to having it produced at the prestigious Julian Theatre and directed by John Henry Doyle. Soon I had another play, " L.B.J." (Long Bien Jail) produced by the Lorraine Hansberry Theatre Company and directed by Stanley E. Williams go on to win awards and recognition state wide. Thinking that I was on a fast track to becoming a major black playwright, I became the first playwright-in-residence with The Lorraine Hansberry Theatre Company and developed a play, "Is you is or is you Ain't" in their playwrights workshop. This new play went on to win first place in the Bay Area Guardian's first, Playwrights Competition. I must say that my seven years in Los Angeles was on the other side of a nightmare. I lost my belongings, my wife, my children, my books and some of my bags in the first six months of sunshine and palm trees and inflated egos and false friendships. All my theater friends told me that I was mad to relocate to a city that only loves its mediocre television shows and its big budgeted films and plastic movie stars and saw serious dramatic theater as a nuisance rather than a legitimate art form. Spending many lonely hours in a 10' X 10' hotel room with no money and no car, I was actually able to be very productive and wrote five full length plays in that seven year period. The only drawback to my creativity was that once I finished a piece there was nowhere to try it out as in a play reading. I finally managed to have a few readings done at a well known theatre company called The Mojo Theatre Company. But a full production of one of my works didn't happen until five years into my L.A. exile. That came about because of a reuniting with John Doyle, who'd come to Los Angeles to produce his first play there. Out of our collaboration came the production of "Yesterday Came Too Soon" (The Dorothy Dandridge Story). And though things started out very difficult for this enterprise, it actually made quite a stir in Los Angeles. The play went on to run for nine weeks and gathered great revues. In fact This play has been produced all over this country. By this time, I finally realized that I needed to move to New York if I wanted to move my playwriting career upward. New York is quite a different environment. I've been here for eight years. It's been one of my most productive. I can have actors and theaters in place and ready for one of my new works even before I'm actually finished with it. I've had at least one play a year produced in one level or another. I've been invited to Dallas to do one of my plays. I've had "Yesterday... done main stage at the Black Theatre Festival in Winston Salem. Now I'm working on taking two plays on a tour of Europe in 2007. "Is you is or Is you Ain't" will be produced in New York in March. I plan at West Coast Tour of a play entitled: "Eulogy for the Black Man" by the summer of next year. So I've been very busy and have many plans in place for my theatre pieces. In January I will finish a 20 minute short film that I've written and co-produced entitled: "Pitter Patter"

Monday, October 14, 2013

First here's some recent pictures of my fund-raising play reading of my "spicy, naughty, but nice" play: "Elizabeth's Precious Kitty". More on another blog for that. And like the subject, this picture is just a tease.
Hey I know this is cheating but I'm putting this new blog up because I think it's time for a "Fade-back-in-the-past" Day for me. Lots of new stuff happening; not withstanding the biggest is that I think I can escape from Atlanta and make my way back to New York City for good. This is an old interview I did back in 2009 for AAPEX (African American Playwrights Exchange). Damn, I almost sound reflective, intelligent, and even clairvoyant. LOL! Except for being "hijacked" into performing in a play at the local recreation center in the Fillmore District of San Francisco when I was 12 years old and a role that called for counting from one to ten in Spanish, I didn't have any exposure to live theater. As a matter of fact, I was booted from that role because I have a horrible time with foreign languages including English. I couldn't remember what came after cinco. I was a loner who lost himself in reading novels, especially Robert Lewis Stevenson's Call of the Wild & White Fang and Edgar Rice Burrows' Tarzan adventures. In fact as I lost myself in their tales, I thought that one day I would write adventure stories about wild wolf/dogs and traveling through jungles on foot. My real evolution as an artist started when I was serving in a navy ship off the coast of Vietnam. The only reading material that I could find was Readers Guide and as I read their condensed stories and found that these writers were paid real money for this crap, I thought that when I got the chance I too would make a few extra dollars submitting them stories with more flair and imagination than those they'd already published. In fact, when I got back stateside, I submitted a story or two and got no response whatsoever. Either they weren't looking for the stuff I was writing or I didn't have the skills to know what I was writing. For a long time, in my early twenties, I forgot about writing and just ran the streets living the life of an oversexed and happy young man. Then the Beginning-of-the End happened. My next door neighbor and street-running partner, who was also stationed on my Navy Reserve Ship, talked me into checking out a new black writers group down the street that had only two members, himself and the Founder. After one visit where someone read parts of a new short story, the ghost-of-I-can-do-that whopped me upside the head and I was hooked. The group grew very fast with everyone attempting to write short stories, but Evolution transformed many of them to writing poetry. I could never master poetry, so I became the only member not writing it. Then the Evolution turned to writing plays. Again I resisted and stayed the lone short story writer. Unlike today where it's difficult to get the money to rent a space and produce a play, in those San Francisco days the hippies, the Black Panthers, weren't the only renaissance going on. With no formal training Black folks were doing all kinds of Art and most of it, with the help of the Arts Commission, was being performed live. Actors, Ted Lange (The Love Boat) , Shabaka Henly (Stella Got Her Groove On). Danny Glover (Lethal Weapon) was just beginning his acting career getting his "chops" in a community group called Black Light Explosion Company. Many well known movie and television actors were caught up in this Arts Explosion. And the beauty of it all was that most of the groups supported and worked with one another. My group, The San Francisco Black Writers Workshop, would write plays and Black Light would provide the Actors, and another group that taught Directors, would provide the Directors. And the City would provide the venues, at no cost, for these events to happen. Yes, those were some heady times. One of our playwrights would finish the first draft of a play and two weeks later it was being performed. And because everyone was a poet or a playwright except me, their art came to life in living color and my short stories went into my dresser drawer. That is until...I was asked to write a 1st play for a college professor's convention coming to San Francisco. Just on a whim and because I was encouraged by the other writers to join the "fraternity" of the produced, I wrote a short play that was in titled: "Where's What?" Everybody asked me what the fuck did Where's What mean?!!! It was a satirical answer to the Panthers so-called food program. The first major revision was to retitle the play "Where's the Revolution". To me it was to be a one-time shot. I was an artiste, not no simple playwright. Anybody could write a simple play. I just didn't know any better in those days. :) Anyway, I was so pumped up on seeing real people watching real people bring my real words to life, that for the next ten years or so I wrote plays full-time. The irony is that so many years (decades) have passed since then and I think I am the only playwright out of that group that is still writing plays. Out of all the many cities I have lived in this many years (Los Angels, New York, Atlanta) and all the many groups I have belonged to, I am a fervent and true believer in the workshop process. I can't believed that there are many true geniuses that sit alone in their rooms and write and then have their work go straight to producer to the stage without any feedback from other writers. Never be your own unflinching admirer. You might think that you don't want others rewriting your shit for you or giving you negative feedback so that you become discouraged. You want to bounce your work off others because most of us aren't able to smell our own shit. The theater in its true self is art in a collaborative world. The first to believe in your art are those that are part of the collaborative circle that makes it come to life. They are the real ones that have a true stake in it and you. Of course the people who pay to sit in those theater seats to experience what comes from your inner soul, want to experience your brilliance. But brilliance is a subjective thing sometimes. What smells like roses and to you is sweet as honey, might stink and taste like shit. Despite how brilliant you think you are, your art will be judge by many different objective observers. To me it's in the workshop environment where those first objective observers come in first contact with your art. And it will definitely be a mixed bag. You'll get those that have same artistic dreams as you and hate your work for it and will try their best to belittle your work just because that's who they are. You'll have cheerleaders telling you that your shit is brilliant and wonder when it'll be produced on a live stage knowing that all the time the audience will want their money back. You'll have those that care more about the quality of the art than they do personally about you as a human. And it's this hodgepodge of fellow thespians that makes workshops so very much indispensable to a playwright that wants to perfect his craft and not his damn ego. You will get all kinds of criticisms in that cramped environment. And if you want to learn to be able to survive and grow a strong "hide" as well as a strong belief in yourself and be able to let BS go through one ear and out the other and also allow meaningful criticism to make you pause and evaluate it to make a revisit to your "brilliant" play to see something you didn't see before-- then a workshop is an invaluable tool to make you a better artist. Wherever I go in my Gypsy-like life, I search out writers workshops. When I was in N.Y. I belonged to many and each served a purpose in the growth of my career as a writer. As a new transplant in Atlanta, I have found myself faced with a dilemma, there are not a lot of playwrights workshops and exactly NONE that exclusively nurtures black writers. I can't with all honesty say that Atlanta is not a theater town because there is theater going on here. Just not a lot of my type of theater. All theater isn't inclusive. There is something to the commonality of the human species as well as uniqueness of different cultures. I could be wrong, but there are no black theater groups that have there own theaters in Atlanta. Most of the black theater I'm aware of here constantly rehash Black Classics or they are relatively new and inexperienced theater groups that specialize in church and gospel themed plays. I have to give my props to those latter groups because at least they are experimenting with actually producing NEW plays in a nurturing collaborative way. As for The Classics they are our "pride" of the past excellence of our theater art, but how much time and money is being diverted from advancing our art by producing new and exciting plays and emerging playwrights? If Classics are the majority of the "black plays" being produced in any year and any city, doesn't that prevent the "future" black classics ever from becoming future Classics because nobody is producing them too? Does that mean that black theatre as an art form becomes stagnant, almost a decadent art form because we're not actively seeking out and nurturing new blood and exciting new theater pieces by bringing them to life? The life blood of any culture is new innovative genius. Despite my frustration as a successful playwright, I think of Atlanta as a new frontier with enormous possibilities. I believe that there are many secret playwrights and theater actors, directors, stage designers, lighting, and lovers of black theater that are looking for someplace; some collaborative meeting place of the black Art community from which to hone our distinctive form of theater and make Atlanta the next artistic center in America. I could just be a dreamer, but I've seen it happen before and had been an active part of it.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

A high class Dominatrix is forced to fight to preserve her precious virginity from her scheming deceased mother and an alluring mythological man-creature. AreaBay Productions presents an erotic play entitled: “Elizabeth’s Precious Kitty”. “Elizabeth’s Precious Kitty” is a sensual and highly stimulating erotic, fantasy, and farcical play that promises to shock and titillate the audience’s attention and open up a sexy, voyeuristic inside view of a middle age virgin Dominatrix under stress from forces trying to take her most precious thing away: her precious kitty. The play definitely stretches the imagination and artistically merges taboo language and views of sexual reality rarely seen in the theater world. Elizabeth’s reputation and skills are well known and in great demand to her male “slave” clients who pay the high fees for her exclusive services. Not only is she the most sought after Dominatrix in the business, but she is fearless, self confident, and fierce in protection of that reputation. She’s become very comfortable in her lifestyle and fears no man. She has her “shit” together and is master of her sexual universe. Everything is fine with the world until…her most secret and most private fears are confronted and pursued. One day after servicing one of her regular clients, she finds herself trapped in her apartment by a disapproving and harassing deceased mother and the most hideous yet sexiest male-creature named Panner. Involuntarily, Elizabeth is faced with a realization of her “biological clock” quickly running out and also that fact that though she is a master of a hushed and quiet segment of the sex industry, she has never felt nor needed nor wanted the physical touch of a man. She finds herself fighting both the pressure of her mother begging her to continue the family bloodline by having intercourse with a man, but also having to deal with this hideous man-creature and his strange desires and demands for her exclusive services. Elizabeth fights the dark forces of fantasy and mythology alone. But who wins this battle for her “precious kitty”? Come travel with me to the dark side of the D.C. Black Theatre Festival. My new play is performed on Saturday night, June 29th at the Sweet Spot, 2020 Shannon Place S.E., Washington, D.C.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

High Priestess of 1880 New Orleans

I'm excited that my newest artistic creation, "The Ascension of Marie Laveau" is finally making its first live appearance as a staged reading ten long months after I finished writing the play. I am proud that I am doing the "process" the "work" that all artists must do to proactively shape their pieces into becoming worthy of future productions with great actors and professional production staffs. But the most important thing that I will get out of this process is to hear the words from the page to guide me into working on the next revision. Jersey City, Saturday Feb 16th, 2pm at Sanai's Restaurant. Just doing the work...