The New York Theatre Workshop (NYTW) at 79 E. Fourth St. in Manhattan's East Village is a very cool place. It's where Rent was born a dozen years ago, where new and edgy work gets developed.
Next month, a piece called Liberty City joins the list of shows born at NYTW, a list that includes Tony Kushner's Homebody/Kabul, Claudia Shear's Dirty Blonde, Caryl Churchill's A Number and more. Thompson (left), an actress who grew up in Miami, coauthored the solo show with Jessica Blank, who collaborated with Erik Jensen on The Exonerated, the powerful play about former Death Row inmates. Here's how NYTW describes the play, which will be performed by Thompson and directed by Blank:
"Liberty City: a place where people of the African Diaspora have settled; where urban and island cultures rub up against each other, and the site of Miami's infamous 1980 riots. Enter April Yvette Thompson -- a child of children of the '60s, the daughter of a Bahamian and Cuban father and an African-American mother; free thinkers, youung radicals and movement people. As the hope of the '60s and '70s gave way to the disillusionment and disintegration of the '80s, April's family struggled to survive and stay together. Part history, part imagination, Liberty City is her personal story...[illuminating] the lives of one family through the context of social, cultural and political events."
Sounds pretty provocative/engaging. And you have to wonder: Why isn't this play being done in the city where these lives were lived? The Coconut Grove Playhouse might have given it a home, but probably would have jammed it into the smaller Encore Room. The Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts (a.k.a. the rechristened Carnival Center) could have grabbed it, maybe. But shouldn't a play that is so relevant to Miami be seen in Miami? Anybody?
In the meantime, should you feel like hopping a plane to New York to catch Liberty City, here's the 411: The show begins previews Feb. 15, opens March 4 and runs through March 16. Tickets are $45, available through Telecharge. In the run-up to the show, the theater is hosting a free panel discussion at 7 p.m. Jan. 29 to explore both the conditions that led to the 1980 riots and black activism in the last half of the 20th century.
Again, you have to wonder: why not here?