Polar Bears, Black Boys & Prairie Fringed Orchids by Vincent Terrell Durham was selected by DCPA Theatre Company as one of four featured readings in its 2023 Colorado New Play Summit. Get to know this all-new play before it’s read in front of a Denver audience for the first time!
EVOLUTION OF TROPES
Playwright Vincent Terrell Durham poses to the audience, “when did racist depictions of Black people become a part of their own consciousness? Apes, monkeys and gorillas is an old racial trope, but are we aware that hoodies have become a new racial trope?”
WHAT’S YOUR MOTIVATION?
The play demonstrates performative activism, meaning activism done to increase one’s social capital rather than because of one’s devotion to a cause. Molly Castle is seen putting up “Black” art before hosting a party with guests of color. She’s also given her Black maid the night off, concerned with how it would appear to her guests.
The gentrification of Harlem is directly and indirectly referenced throughout the play. Harlem, a predominantly Black and African-American neighborhood in Upper Manhattan, has continued to gentrify in the 21st century. Shameka complains about not being able to find a liquor store, only Starbucks and Whole Foods. She also comments on the neighborhood changing around her Black-owned and operated bookstore, the Frederick Douglass. Later, Tom interjects that crime rates have only dropped in Harlem due to gentrification.
The SoHa controversy is debated in the play, where real estate professionals attempted to “re-brand” the neighborhood to make it more appealing. The name is in the style of “SoHo” or South of Houston Street, a trendy shopping district in Lower Manhattan. Harlem residents have labeled this as an insult and an attempt to erase the rich culture and history of the area.
BEAUTY IS IN THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER
A book of Robert Mappelthorpe’s photography is pulled from Peter and Molly’s bookcase. Robert Mappelthorpe was an American photographer known for his erotic artwork in the 1970s and 80s. Much of his work is considered controversial, including his frequent use of Black male nude models.
Polar Bears, Black Boys & Prairie Fringed Orchids
Featured in the 2023 Colorado New Play Summit
Feb 25 & 26, 2023