Make time for “Black Lives/Blue Lives”

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Black Lives / Blue Lives poster
The Theater Project: Black Lives / Blue Lives 2023
CK Allen & Gary Matins head shots
The Theater Project: Back Lives/Blue Lives: Actors CK Allen (L) & Gary Matins (R)

Black Lives/Blue Lives is a very special event. Originally commissioned by The Theater Project to address major concerns of today that have reached a flashpoint, authors Steve Harper and Bill Mesce, Jr. have captured the zeitgeist with a poignant portrait where the audience is directly involved.

Designed for audiences of all ages, most recently this diptych was presented July 31 and August 1, 2023 in the black box theatre at Burgdorff Cultural Center in Maplewood, NJ.

The intimate setting of the black box theatre was comfortable after the cooling air outside on that sultry August night. The audience drifted in singly and in pairs and trios — all ages and backgrounds.

When Sarge (Gary Martins) first began to address us, we understood that we were no longer audience — we were newly minted police officers who had just graduated from the Academy. Sarge was giving us one last lecture, the benefit of his entire time on the force, in an effort to prevent our making rookie mistakes. This was just the beginning.

Halfway through when the changeover happens and we meet The Lawyer (CK Allen) we learn that both men were teaching us important factors that our books and studies could never cover — the benefits of their lived experience.

Both Martin and Allen provide fully developed 3D characters that involve us and bring us into their lives with such a humbling degree of intimacy that I found myself immersed in what each man was relating. Sarge eloquently explains that in the moment, each officer will fight their own battle to make the right decision but judgment may be clouded by bias. The Lawyer strips back the layers of privilege that some of us have been granted by the accidents of tiny portions of our DNA that make some of us melanin rich, and therefore subject to unparalleled scrutiny.

These recent performances featured Dr. Sara Campion, Director of Interdisciplinary Studies at Kean University, and Daaimah Talley, a founding member of The Theater Project as well as a brilliant actor, producer, manager, and more, as discussants, expertly guiding the audience through the shoals of our post-show experiences.

An audience that began as solo attendees, pairs, and trios coalesced into a beautiful community, each person sharing deep emotions and scarring experiences as only the best of new friends are able. This show is available for travel to a theater near you, so reach out here: thetheaterproject.org/black-lives-blue-lives.

The journey to greater understanding begins with each of us.