The Orishas played by Charyse Monet (Oshun), Ben Guillory (Shango), Ayonna Michelle (Oya), and Toni-Ann Hampton (Yemaya) convenes deceased legends to discuss, debate and find solutions to end the horrendous plight of Black people. A Heated Discussion is produced and directed by Ben Guillory and written by Levy Lee Simon. Photo by Jermaine Alexander
Robey Theatre Company re-opens with world premiere of 'A Heated Discussion'
LOS ANGELES—Opening night of The Robey Theatre Company’s first live stage play in two years, “A Heated Discussion,” was sold out. On Saturday, April 9, an ensemble of actors played to an astute audience of theatre goers at the Los Angeles Theatre Center, Theatre 4, in downtown Los Angeles’ Art District.
From the audience’s consensus, especially the comment by Former U.S. Congresswoman and Ambassador to Micronesia Honorable Diane E. Watson, “The more than 2-hour eye-opening program was worth the wait"
People often wonder about the reaction or proactive measures that our civil rights leaders and activists would have done about the tragic cycle of racism, hate crimes, and murders by the hands of white authority. “A Heated Discussion” explores what may happen when Black icons meet in the afterlife, from centuries ago to present day, who have experienced much of the same horrific events that continues to be America’s ugly truth.
“What if the spirits of iconic black figures who have given their lives literally and figuratively to fight the good fight for freedom at every level in every way are summoned by the Orishas who are entities of the spiritual world because they have seen enough of the monstrosities afflicted on Black people?" said Award-winning Ben Guillory, CEO and producing artistic director. Guillory has led The Robey Theatre Company for more than 25 years. "What if the iconic figures were asked what they thought, how would they deal with what is going on the planet?"
“The leaders bear witness to the wanton murders of people of color, mostly Black people often weekly, some- times daily, by the authorities on the planet shown to them by the Orishas to jumpstart the dialogue which naturally becomes heated on a profound level.”
A Heated Discussion cast includes Julio Hanson as James Baldwin who became a known spokesperson for civil rights and championing the cause of Black Americans., Tiffany Coty as Lorraine Hansberry who worked at the Pan-Africanist newspaper Freedom, where she worked with other intellectuals such as Paul Robeson and W. E. B. Du Bois, and Rosilee Hooks as Dr. Frances Cress Welsing who believed that homosexuality among African-Americans was a ploy by white males to decrease the black population. Photo: Jermaine Alexander
"When Ben Guillory conceived the idea to me several years ago, we started with a list of 89 Black legends and then we drilled it down to 12," said Levy Lee Simon, the playwright. "A Heated Discussion illustrates what we believe could be the opposing in the viewpoints of Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., Maya Angelou, Zora Neale Hurston, Dr. Frances Cress-Welsing, Richard Pryor, Lorraine Hansberry, Bob Marley, Tupac Shakur, James Baldwin and more.
"We thought that those controversial legends would create the heat that was needed for a heated discussion," said Guillory.
The ensemble brought the legends to life with powerful performances under the guidance of Guillory. Audience members remarked about how the actors brought you in like being a fly on the wall or a spy bug planted by the FBI.
Shango played by Ben Guillory is an African Deity of a natural and powerful force. He lived through centuries of disasters and wars, and several that he may have caused to happen. The Orishas pray to a higher spirit; however, there is no one over Shango. He abruptly appears during the height of the discussion to stir the emotions among the icons and pushes the icons to form a militia to cause wrath on Earth.
Cast members Garret Davis as Martin Luther King, Jr. and David Bollar as Malcolm X operated from opposite viewpoints. Both were advocates of racial justice and the civil rights movement but very different schools of thought. King was known for his nonviolence approach to civil rights movement and X argued that Black people should defend and advance themselves "by any means necessary."
Photo: Jermaine Alexander
The cast includes Kimberly Bailey, Quonta Beasley, PhiLip Bell, David Bollar, Alex W.S.T Chumley, Tiffany Coty, Garret Davis, Ben Guillory, Tori -Ann Hampton, Julio Hanson, Rosie Lee Hooks, LaShada Jackson, Ayonna Michele, Charyse Monet, Vanja Renee, and Kyle Sparks.
In attendance on opening night was Award-winning Actor, Humanitarian and Robey Theatre co-founder, Danny Glover who received the Academy Award's Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award for humanitarian efforts that have brought credit to the industry. “The opening date coincided with the birthday of actor, singer, activist Paul Robe- son on April 9, 1898 for whom The Robey Theatre Company is named,” said Glover at the opening night reception.
Amid the global pandemic, unapologetic civil unrest, and national senseless murders, the Robey Theatre Com- pany still rises. The Robey Theatre Company, a non-profit founded by Guillory and Glover, is known to foster a community of artists whose purpose is to develop and produce plays written about the global Black experience.
A Heated Discussion gives you a glimpse of the conversations that could happen among great minds or just within your circle of family and friends. For many people, it further sparks the curiously to learn more about these activists in this remarkably well written piece of storytelling by Simon. The play closes on May 15.
For more about the Robey Theatre Company or for membership: www.TheRobeyTheatreCompany.org.
Marie Y. Lemelle, MBA, owner of Platinum Star Media Group, writes about health, entertainment, and the arts.
Investigation continues into Inglewood murder of rapper Slim 400
INGLEWOOD (CNS)—The investigation was continuing today into the killing of Compton rapper Slim 400, who was gunned down in Inglewood.
The shooting was reported about 8 p.m. Wednesday at Manchester Boulevard and Seventh Avenue. The Los Angeles County coroner's office on Friday identified the slain man as 34-year-old Vincent Cochran Jr.
Paramedics sent to the location at the request of Inglewood police took the mortally wounded man to a hospital, according to the Los Angeles County Fire Department. Police have not released details of their investigation into the killing.
According to CBS2, officers on patrol heard the gunshots and responded to find a man on the ground with gunshot wounds. TMZ.com reported that the rapper apparently was shot as he sat in a vehicle in a driveway.
According to TMZ, Slim was born to military parents in Germany, moved to Los Angeles as a young child and was raised in Compton. The rapper was later discovered and signed by the now-nonexistent Pu$haz Ink music label
—the same one made popular by YG and DJ Mustard.
"Slim narrowly escaped death back in the summer of 2019 when he was shot nine times in L.A.," TMZ reported. "Slim claimed he was ambushed in the attack while visiting family in Compton."
City News Service