through November 4, 2018
It was back around the early 1900’s when a black fighter, Jack Johnson a/k/a the Galveston Giant became the first black man to become the world heavyweight champion. It was during the bad old days when a black person couldn’t stay in many hotels, dine in many restaurants, or even sit in the same waiting rooms at the bus station. And, if he were to drive across a State line with a white woman, it was a serious offense and he could be sent to prison.
Marco Ramirez based this work upon the life of that fighter. In the play he is Jay Jackson (Garrett Turner) and much of the story shows him sparring or fighting with Fish (Marlon Andrew Burnley). The set is a sparse setting made to resemble a fighting ring, and the fighting is created by Yahya McClain and is a work of art.
Jay has a manager, Max (Brian Kurlander), who wants his man to get to the top, and to do so, wants to set up the Fight of the Century against the existing, but retired, world champion. His trainer, Wynton (Rob Cleveland), is pretty sure his man can do it, but not sure what the social outcome may be.
But, Jay’s sister, Nina (Cynthia D. Barker) comes to town to try to dissuade Jay from this endeavor, on the fear of social uprisings should he prevail. In fact just that day several guys had been stopped at the door by Security as they were bearing guns. And, in fact, when the real fight had taken place in 1908 and Johnson won, riotous reactions occurred in many cities. Jim Crow was not really dead and buried and some of it lived on into the 1950’s. Not that bigotry and racism has yet to be extinguished in this land where all men are created equal.
The show runs about 90 minutes without intermission. The Theatrical Outfit is downtown on Luckie Street, and you can avoid problematic on-street parking by using the garage just north of the theater, and they’ll provide a discounted exit pass to you at the concession stand. This is a production that reaches deeply, and is one where you feel as if you are really watching a bout. More info at TheatricalOutfit.org