Pulitzer Prize Finalist “Bulrusher” by Eisa Davis makes its Los Angeles Premiere
Carrying her “quadruple threat” status with grace and humility, a rare breed in talent these days, Eisa Davis, the playwright / actor / singer / songwriter (not necessarily in that order) is in town for the opening of her play Bulrusher. She just does what she does best, which is almost everything, when called upon to do so. Now the focus is on the Los Angeles premiere of her play Bulrusher, a Pulitzer Prize finalist opening at the Skylight Theatre the weekend of August 23rd and 24th.
Lower Depth Theatre Ensemble (recipients of multiple awards, including NAACP Awards) has teamed with the Skylight Theatre Company to “explore the truth and reality that lies beneath the lower depth of our existence,” as expressed in the LDTE mission statement, to “transform community consciousness; and provide a forum for its audiences.”
These two like-minded theatre companies have come together to present this play, new to Los Angeles, and we all become the lucky beneficiaries of that union. With the fine reputation of LDTE and the recent Skylight Theatre Company record (given three of the spots in LA Weekly’s 2013 “Top Ten Plays of the Year”) of productions, my guess is that this will be another “must see” for local audiences. STC has been on fire this season with their new focus on developing plays such as The Wrong Man, Pray to Ball, and The Sexual Life of Savages.
This play centers around a multiracial orphan girl, growing up in a predominantly white California town in the 1950’s. She discovers a new sense of self when a black girl from Alabama suddenly appears in her world. The script is sprinkled with the poetic language of Boontling, and set in a rural town along the Navarro River. With their humor and passion, these characters will keep audiences well entertained, and thinking about ways to move forward in life while applying lessons from the past.
Eisa Davis, niece of noted 60’s activist Angela Davis, applies some of her own lessons to the work. Beyond her notoriety as a playwright, Eisa is an Obie Award winner for Sustained Excellence in Performance, and received the Herb Alpert Award. She wrote and starred in Angela’s Mixtape, named a Best of 2009 by The New Yorker. This talented artist shares some insight on her experience with creating Bulrusher, and what makes her tick, in this interview for LA Splash.
Jennifer Lee: Was Bulrusher inspired by a personal journey of self-discovery?
Eisa Davis: Partially. The story and characters in Bulrusherarose from a variety of sources – my love of the land in Northern California, my family history in Birmingham, the distinct East Coast and West Coast approaches to racial difference. At the time that I wrote it, I wanted both to memorialize a deep love I’d felt, and a new sense I had that happiness was possible.
Lee: How has growing up in a world of activists shaped or informed your perspective on how you perceive the world today?
Davis: It’s part of my DNA. So my path has been to better understand which ideologies (of the ones I was raised on) are relevant and helpful now, and which are particular to an historical time and place. My activist family have revised their stances over the years – all of us are trying to figure out how to make this place somewhere we’d want our children to live in, whether we are activists or not.
Lee: Before you sat down to write this play, what was your mindset? What were you hoping to achieve?
Davis: I wanted to write a poetic epic in direct address like Dylan Thomas’ Under Milk Wood, which I’d seen an amazing production of in college. But, that’s not what came out at all. The characters all wanted to talk to each other instead of just declaiming to the audience. So the play was a complete failure in terms of what I intended it to be, and I’m thrilled. Thievery didn’t really work out for me.
Lee: Are you able to relate/connect deeply with all the characters of Bulrusher?
Davis: It’s like Jungian dream analysis where they say that all the people and objects in your dreams are you. All of the characters are elements of me. So it’s not just Bulrusher or Vera that I identify with, because they’re the black women, it’s everyone. Madame is full of harsh will, Logger brims with life itself, Schoolch doesn’t say much but he’s feeling a whole lot, while Boy is oblivious, joyful, and lost. That’s why I love writing plays – I can step into all the selves I hold inside, and embody traits I never knew I had.
Lee: What do you hope viewers will take away from watching this play?
Davis: Anything they want. The answers to how to fix the world would be ideal. But I hope folks will find a little bit more forgiveness and gratitude, a willingness to embrace what makes them a misfit, and revel in our natural world.
Eisa Davis was last seen in LA in 2011 with the play This at the Kirk Douglas Theatre, she will soon be recognized for her upcoming gig as a new character in the Netflix series House of Cards.
BULRUSHER is directed by Nataki Garrett and produced by Lower Depth Theatre Ensemble and Skylight Theatre Company, presented at the Skylight Theatre Complex, 1816 ½ North Vermont, LA, 90027.
Opens 8pm on August 23rd and 3pm on August 24th and runs 8pm Fridays and Saturdays, and 3pm on Sundays through September 28, 2014.
For reservations call: 213-761-7061 or online at http://skylighttix.com
Tickets are $30 ($20 Early Bird special code: EARLY. Good until 3pm on 8/23)
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