Black Lives Matter project goes virtual

A Black Lives Matter is displayed in Dayton's Oregon District near the patio by 416 Diner on Saturday, Aug. 1, 2020. TOM GILLIAM/CONTRIBUTED
A Black Lives Matter is displayed in Dayton's Oregon District near the patio by 416 Diner on Saturday, Aug. 1, 2020. TOM GILLIAM/CONTRIBUTED

Credit: Tom Gilliam

Credit: Tom Gilliam

Paul Laurence Dunbar poem 'We Wear The Mask' is among the works highlighted in free online presentation by Sinclair, Wilberforce.

Sinclair Community College enters its 2020-2021 season with a free online presentation of “We Wear The Mask: Breathe,” available for streaming Friday, Aug. 7 through Sunday, Aug. 9. Created in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, the project — a collaboration between Sinclair Theatre, Wilberforce University and Sinclair’s Office of Diversity — consists of a series of monologues written by Black authors performed by current and former Sinclair actors.

A cabinet card portrait of author Paul Laurence Dunbar as a young man in 1890. Dunbar was born in Dayton in 1872 to former slaves and was the first African American poet to receive critical acclaim for his work. He died in Dayton Feb. 9, 1906. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE OHIO HISTORY CONNECTION
A cabinet card portrait of author Paul Laurence Dunbar as a young man in 1890. Dunbar was born in Dayton in 1872 to former slaves and was the first African American poet to receive critical acclaim for his work. He died in Dayton Feb. 9, 1906. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE OHIO HISTORY CONNECTION

“The poem ‘We Wear The Mask’ by Paul Laurence Dunbar refers to people hiding their true feelings and emotions from everyone else behind a ‘mask,’” said director Edward Hill, vice president of academic affairs and strategic initiatives at Wilberforce University. “In the poem, he refers to the cheerful facial expression that people think is necessary so that others don’t see how they truly feel.”

Hill, an actor, director and performance coach, recently moved to the area from Atlanta. He particularly delivered one of the best performances of the 2019-2020 season as Paul Robeson in the Dayton Theatre Guild’s terrific production of “Mr. Rickey Calls a Meeting.” He is a newly-minted board member of the Guild. His theatrical credits include “Fences,” “Two Trains Running” and “Kiss of the Spider Woman” along with television and film appearances in small supporting roles in “The Contingent,” “Survivor’s Remorse” and “Six.”

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Sinclair Community College presents a collaborative virtual presentation of "We Wear The Mask: Breathe," a series of monologues available for streaming Aug. 7-9. The presentation is directed by Edward Hill, vice president of academic affairs and strategic initiatives at Wilberforce University. CONTRIBUTED
Sinclair Community College presents a collaborative virtual presentation of "We Wear The Mask: Breathe," a series of monologues available for streaming Aug. 7-9. The presentation is directed by Edward Hill, vice president of academic affairs and strategic initiatives at Wilberforce University. CONTRIBUTED

Credit: CONTRIBUTED

Credit: CONTRIBUTED

In addition to Dunbar, the authors saluted in the presentation include well-known scribes such as television co-producer (“Shameless”) and Tony Award nominee Dominique Morisseau (“Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations”) as well as emerging voices such as inclusion activist Christine Toy Johnson, poet/playwright Dave Harris, and Sinclair alumnus Amber Smith.

“Engaging our students and continuing their education during the pandemic is a challenge,” said Gina Neuerer, chair of Sinclair’s Music, Theatre and Dance Department. “But now our students are feeling the anger of the injustice of our country’s systemic racism and I want to help them to find multiple paths for their rage and fear and activism, with one of those paths being involvement in theater performance.”

THE CAST

The cast and program lineup includes:

  • S. Francis Livisay, “We Wear The Mask,” by Paul Laurence Dunbar
  • Amber Smith, Character Jasmine from “Pipeline,” by Dominique Morisseau
  • Mackenzie Moore, “Jazelle the Gazelle,” by Dominque Morisseau
  • Amber Smith, Character Mya from “Tired,” by Amber Smith
  • Kassahn Johnson, Character Omari from “Pipeline,” by Dominque Morisseau
  • Bryana Bentley, “You Think You Know Us,” by Christine Toy Johnson
  • Shaun Diggs, “Press-Ure from “Blood at the Root,” by Dominique Morisseau
  • Mari Pullings, “Wake, Child,” by Dave Harris
  • S. Francis Livisay and Deangelo Powell, “Survival Code” from “Blood at the Root,” by Dominique Morisseau with choreography by Rodney Veal
  • Bryana Bentley, “For Black Women Who Experienced Genocide When the Police Murders of Their Sons Was Too Much,” by Keith A. Wallace

Particularly last season, Diggs appeared opposite Hill as Jackie Robinson in the aforementioned “Mr. Rickey Calls a Meeting.” Livisay also appeared at the Guild as Reed in “Icebergs.” Bentley, seen opposite Diggs and Livisay in Sinclair’s outstanding 2017 production of “Blues from an Alabama Sky,” starred last fall as Joey in Sinclair’s thought-provoking production of “Slut.”

The monologues will be compiled into one production package by Dan Brunk, professor of Sinclair Theatre’s technology classes. In order to view the production, visit Sinclair ticketing site at Sinclair.edu/tickets and register for an attendee number, which will allow you admission to the site during the streaming period.

‘We Wear The Mask’ by Paul Laurence Dunbar

We wear the mask that grins and lies,

It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes, –

This debt we pay to human guile;

With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,

And mouth with myriad subtleties.

Why should the world be over-wise,

In counting all our tears and sighs?

Nay, let them only see us, while

We wear the mask.

We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries

To thee from tortured souls arise.

We sing, but oh the clay is vile

Beneath our feet, and long the mile;

But let the world dream otherwise,

We wear the mask!