You have to be living under a rock not to know about Lisa B. Thompson’s play Underground, written by Dr. Lisa B. Thompson and directed by Rudy Ramirez. The duo-casted show recently finished its incredible run at the Vortex, one of Austin’s livest theatre companies. It came as no surprise that Underground was sold out EVERY NIGHT. Audiences came from near and far to see the show and from the responses on social media, it’s safe to say that Underground is a life-changing experience.
THE SHOW: Underground
“UNDERGROUND is a two-man show set in Albany, New York that takes place over the course of one evening. The drama’s centers around the reunion of two college friends, Mason Dixon, an attorney, and Kyle Brown, a nationally renown cultural and political activist. Once leaders of a radical student organization, they are now facing the dawn of middle age and are struggling to find their footing among the realities of a shifting racial climate. As a major snowstorm rages outside Mason and Kyle debate the state of black Americans and examine their own lives. The evening takes a turn when they discuss a new activist movement demanding reparations and an end to police brutality. As it becomes clear that this group is linked to a series of increasingly brutal domestic terrorist acts they are forced to confront their differing views about the need for militancy. When the authorities begin to close in on the movement leaders the bond between the old friends is tested further.” via New Play Exchange
THE PLAYWRIGHT: Lisa B. Thompson
“Lisa B. Thompson is an Austin based playwright whose work has been produced across the United States and in Canada. Her work has been produced and/or developed by New Professional Theatre, Brava Theater Center, Theatre Rhinoceros, New African Grove Theatre Company, Black Spectrum Theatre, The Out of Ink Festival, Company of Angels Theater, FronteraFest, The One-Minute Play Festival, and the National Black Theatre Festival. Her critically acclaimed off-Broadway two-woman show SINGLE BLACK FEMALE (Samuel French, 2012), a nominee for the 2004 LA Weekly Theatre Award for best comedy, uses rapid-fire comic vignettes to examine the lives of thirty-something African American middle class women as they search for love, clothes, and dignity in a world that fails to recognize them among a parade of stereotypical images. The San Francisco native’s other full-length plays include the one-woman show DREADTIME STORIES: ONE SISTA’S HAIR, a romp through black hairstyles from pigtails to dreadlocks; MONROE, a period drama about the afterlife of a lynching in a southern community; THE MAMALOGUES, a comedy that considers black middle class motherhood during the age of anxiety; and UNDERGROUND, a drama that explores the limits of black political radicalism in the Obama era. Thompson is also the author of several short plays including WATCH, I DON’T WANT TO BE, BLACK LIVES MATTER: THREE WORDS, LEGACY, SECOND GRADE, NIGHT, and the satirical afro-futuristic comedy MOTHER’S DAY, which was featured in the anthology show, Black Women: State of the Union. She is currently writing DINNER, a comedy about the first meeting between Nigerian and African American parents planning their children’s wedding. Thompson is also on the faculty of the University of Texas at Austin where she is Associate Professor of African and African Diaspora Studies and affiliate faculty in the departments of English, Women and Gender Studies and Theatre and Dance. The centerpiece of her scholarship is her book BEYOND THE BLACK LADY: SEXUALITY AND THE NEW AFRICAN AMERICAN MIDDLE CLASS (University of Illinois Press, 2009), which received Honorable Mention in competition for the 2010 Gloria E. Anzaldúa Book Prize from the National Women’s Studies Association. Her work has appeared in THEATRE JOURNAL, THEATRE SURVEY, HASTINGS WOMEN’S LAW JOURNAL, AND CATCH THE FIRE: A CROSS-GENERATIONAL ANTHOLOGY OF CONTEMPORARY AFRICAN AMERICAN POETRY. Thompson’s work has been supported with fellowships and awards from a number of institutions, including Harvard University’s W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research, the University of Texas at Austin’s College of Liberal Arts, the University of California’s Office of the President, Michele R. Clayman Institute for Gender Research at Stanford University, UCLA’s Center for African American Studies, the Five Colleges Inc., and Stanford University’s Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity.” via Lisa B. Thompson’s Website.
Congrats to Dr. Lisa Thompson, Rudy Ramirez and the entire team for bringing together an incredible show. Thank you for sharing your characters with the world. We need them. I look forward to seeing Underground in even more venues, spaces and discussions.