“PEOPLE’S HISTORY OF NEXT’ OFFERS HOPE AND A NEW WORLD THROUGH YOUNG EYES
JON TRACY AND “EVERYBODY” LOOK AT A FUTURE THROUGH TEEN SURVIVORS HEARTS AND SOULS
Berkeley’s Live Oak Theatre has been turned into a bomb shelter after a fallout that has destroyed most of the planet. Director Jon Tracy of Theatref1rst and his creative team have written a brilliant new work THE PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF NEXT now in performance at the Live Oak center in Berkeley only through December 22nd. Written by Awele, Anthony Clarvoe and Cleavon Smith with the help of the community. TheatreF1rst Artistic Director Jon Tracy created this new work with over 500 people he says “The People’s History of Next” was devised in workshops with students from Oakland School for the Arts, Oakland Tech, Skyline High School, Contra Costa School for the Performing Arts, Laney College, Berkeley City College, Chabot College and Stagebridge. Each group of writers dove into the questions: What would happen if all the adults on Earth collectively died of grief? What would the youth do with the future of the world? The result is a play conceived, developed, and performed by the voices of the Bay Area’s youth.”
Tracy has always wanted to “champion the notion that shows developed and performed by youth are worthy of professional productions and professional critique.” The Live Oak Space resembles a construction site with a mix of media projections and sound designed by Ben Euphrat and Krisoffer Barrera. The world has come to an end and only a few remain including three young teens Anton, Dee and Tara. We meet them as they discover and remember the incident. Played by the terrific actors Leela Kiyawat, Unity Tambellini Smith, and Justin Howard each tell their story in a rap flow that is smooth and powerful. “We might be the last people on earth.”
The three will be responsible for the rebuild of the community “the new architects of humanity.” They have grown up in a world of panic, violence and guns. The three show us the end of the planet through their passion of memories. Their inner hurt and tears are touching and horrific. Young Dee climbs to the top of a broken down truck and drives it into the devastation seeking others. Later Dee takes us outside the space in a brilliant moment when we follow the young teen on her cell phone outside the Live Oak space. Awele is revealed in a white, simple, flowing gown designed by costume designer Nikki Anderson Joyenters. Awele, an adult woman, and no doubt a mother brings hope to the three and shares her passion reaching out to each of the panic souls who all have become the new architects of the now.
The accomplished Justin Howard talks about his father and family. The video clips bring home his memories and ghosts as the stellar LaMont Ridgell sheds his tears and concerns for his lost son. Unity Tambellini Smith as Tara becomes aware of her future to create a new world, and Leela Kiyawat as Dee we see transform into a survivor and warrior. The poetic rap the three bring to the reconstruction is powerful and Tracy’s direction is authentic. The hundreds of students contributed to this 90 minute odyssey, that took eight months to get on the Live Oak Stage. Tracy lists the writers as “Everybody” and facilitated by writers Awele, Anthony Clarvoe, and Cleavon Smith. Stage Manager Jake Fong is put to the max when the story goes live outside the theatre. The Blue glow of ghosts and death is well created by Mark Jensens Lighting Design, as the hollow sounds of the past are perfect in Kristoffer Barrera's sound design. Ben Euphrat and Brendan West's Video design is an important heart of this production as the plastic burlap screens fill with the teens memories.
THE PEOPLE’S HISTORY OF NEXT is the best new play I have seen as the 2018 season ends this December. It is on my top 10 list of productions and was very moving, creative and spellbinding. Tracy always encourages his audience to return to see his TheatreF1rst projects evolve, and your ticket stub can get you in to as many views of T1’s performances to see the plays mature. Next up at TheatreF1rst is PASSAGE by Regina Evans that opens February 14th. But in the meantime it's important you end your 2018 theatre season with this important new work and experience a new world that could happen.
HISTORY OF NEXT
Written by Everybody
Facilitated by Awele, Anthony Clarvoe and Cleavon Smith
Arranged and Directed by Jon Tracy
MUST CLOSE Dec 22nd
TheatreFirst, at Live Oak Theater,
90 minutes no intermission
Featuring Awele, Justin Howard, Leela Kiyawat and Unity Tambellini-Smith / Awele Makeba, LaMont Ridgell, Joy Carlin, Radhika Roa, Miranada Seitelman Rob Seitelman. Creative team includes: Ben Euphrat, Brendan West, Kristoffer Barrera, Marc Jensen, Nikki Anderson-Joy, Randy Wong-Westbrooke