By UNIVERSES (Steven Sapp, Mildred Ruiz-Sapp, and William Ruiz, aka Ninja)
Developed and directed by Liesl Tommy
Limited Season · Thrust Stage
October 17–November 30, 2014
Running time: 2 hours and 35 minutes, including one 15-minute intermission
Get ready for a hyperkinetic mix of live video, hip hop, jazz, rock, gospel, blues, Latin rhythms, and spoken word as the explosive theatre ensemble UNIVERSES rocks and unlocks the radical and complicated legacy of the Black Panthers and Young Lords. These seminal activists fought injustice, provided free food and medical care for their communities—and struggled against a government determined to suppress them. Based on dozens of interviews, Party People imagines the Black Panthers and Young Lords reuniting today at an art opening curated by a couple of young counterculturists, where old wounds open and generations collide. What is the price of being a revolutionary, and what happens to those who come after?
Party People was developed in The Ground Floor, Berkeley Rep’s Center for the Creation and Development of New Work.
Party People uses haze and strobe effects, loud noises including gunshots, and two instances of the use of tobacco- and nicotine-free herbal cigarettes. Berkeley Rep offers an advisory about any stage effect of potential concern to patrons’ health. We don’t offer advisories about subject matter, as sensitivities vary from person to person. If you have any concerns about content, please contact the box office.
Partial support for open captioning provided by Theatre Development Fund
UNIVERSES · Playwrights
UNIVERSES is a New York-based ensemble company of multidisciplinary writers and performers who fuse poetry, theatre, jazz, hip hop, politics, blues, and Spanish boleros into their own unique brand of theatre-based performances. The members of UNIVERSES ensemble, Steven Sapp, Mildred Ruiz-Sapp, and William Ruiz (aka Ninja), grew up in the housing projects in New York City and started performing poetry in the spoken-word scene of the late 1990s at venues such as the Nuyorican Poets Cafe. Then they started writing their own plays, including Ameriville, Slanguage, The Ride, The Denver Project, One Shot in Lotus Position, Blue Suite, and Live from the Edge. Their work has been performed at venues around the world, including the Humana Festival and the Public Theater’s Under the Radar Festival.
Liesl Tommy · Director
Liesl is Berkeley Rep’s associate director and helmed the acclaimed production of Ruined. She directed the premieres of Appropriate by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins (Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, Signature Theatre Company), Party People by UNIVERSES (Oregon Shakespeare Festival), The White Man—A Complex Declaration of Love by Joan Rang (DanskDansk Theatre, Denmark), Peggy Picket Sees the Face of God by Roland Schimmelpfennig (Luminato Festival/Canadian Stage Toronto), Eclipsed by Danai Gurira (Yale Repertory Theatre, Woolly Mammoth), The Good Negro by Tracey Scott Wilson (the Public Theater, Dallas Theater Center), A History of Light by Eisa Davis (Contemporary American Theatre Festival), Angela’s Mixtape by Eisa Davis (Synchronicity Performance Group, New Georges), Bus and Family Ties (Play Company for the Romania Kiss Me! Festival). Other credits include American Buffalo, Les Misérables, Hamlet, A Raisin in the Sun, and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, as well as a four-city tour of Ruined. She has also worked at California Shakespeare Theater, the Huntington Theatre Company, Center Stage in Baltimore, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, La Jolla Playhouse, and Sundance East Africa on Manda Island in Kenya, among others. Liesl serves as a program associate at Sundance Institute Theatre Program and as an artist trustee with the Sundance Institute’s Board of Trustees, and she facilitated the inaugural Sundance East Africa Theatre Director’s Lab in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Liesl has earned an Obie Award, a Lillian Hellman Award, and the Alan Schneider Award for directing, the inaugural Susan Stroman Directing Award from the Vineyard Theatre, the NEA/TCG Directors Grant, and the New York Theatre Workshop Casting/Directing Fellowship. She has taught or guest directed at Yale Repertory Theatre, Juilliard, NYU, and Brown University. Liesl is an alum of Trinity Rep Conservatory and a native of Cape Town, South Africa.
Millicent Johnnie · Choreographer
Millicent’s work has been staged throughout the United States and in South Africa, Brazil, and India, and on award-winning stages including the Public Theater, BAM Harvey Theater, the Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center, Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, and the Gammage Theatre. She began collaborating with UNIVERSES and director Chay Yew on Ameriville at the Humana Festival and with Liesl Tommy on Party People at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. She has worked with acclaimed opera directors Robert Wilson and Peter Sellars; theatre directors Rhodessa Jones, Patricia McGregor, and Will Power; award-winning composers Toshi Reagon and Bernice Johnson Reagon, Daniel Bernard Roumain, and Justin Ellington. Millicent’s concert dance credits include Urban Bush Women, Cleo Parker Robinson Dance, and Dallas Black Dance Theatre. Her music credits include Usher Raymond, Chrisette Michele, Bill Summers (Los Hombres Calientes), Lord Jamar (Brand Nubian), Tekitha Wisdom (Wu-Tang), and celebrity photographer Jonathan Mannion (Jay-Z, Drake, Nicki Minaj). She staged choreography opening for Dave Chappelle (Tallahassee Civic Center) and Angélique Kidjo (National Black Arts Festival) and choreographed the feature film Scary Movie 5 directed by Malcolm D. Lee and produced by David Zucker. Millicent’s directing and choreographic credits include West Side Story, co-produced by University of KwaZulu-Natal and Southern Methodist University, and Rent, produced by Ferndale Repertory Theatre, which received Best Director and Best Musical awards.
Marcus Doshi · Scenic & Lighting Design
Mark designs for theatre, opera, and dance and has collaborated with artists and architects on a wide array of non-theatrical ventures. His work has been seen internationally in Edinburgh, London, Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris, Marseille, Castres, Aix-en-Provence, Venice, Vienna, Tunis, Souse, Cairo, Beirut, Kuwait, Mumbai, New Delhi, Chennai, Phnom Penh, Jakarta, and Sydney. In the U.S., his work has been seen at Seattle Opera, Florentine Opera Company, Boston Lyric Opera, and Baltimore Opera, as well as Lyric Opera of Chicago, the Lincoln Center Festival, the Park Avenue Armory, Signature Theatre Company, Mint Theater Company, New York Theatre Workshop, and the Civilians. Marcus worked with Liesl Tommy on Party People at Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom at the Huntington Stage Company, Eclipsed at the Yale Repertory Theatre, and Flight at City Theatre Company. He is a frequent collaborator with New York’s Theatre for a New Audience and is a company member of Kuwait/UK-based Sabab Theatre. He was educated at Wabash College and Yale School of Drama. Marcus is an assistant professor of theatre at Northwestern University. Visit marcusdoshi.com.
Meg Neville · Costume Design
Meg’s recent and upcoming Berkeley Rep credits include One Man, Two Guvnors; X’s and O’s (A Football Love Story); Party People; Tribes; and The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures. She also worked on Pericles, Prince of Tyre; Ghost Light; In the Wake; Yellowjackets; Eurydice; TRAGEDY: a tragedy; Suddenly Last Summer; Dinner with Friends; Closer; and The Life of Galileo. Her recent and upcoming productions at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival include Long Day’s Journey Into Night (2015), The Cocoanuts (2014), Taming of the Shrew (2013), and Ghost Light (2011). Meg is an associate artist with California Shakespeare Theater, where she has designed numerous productions including Lady Windermere’s Fan, An Ideal Husband, Mrs. Warren’s Profession, and lots of Shakespeare. Other Bay Area theatre credits include Marin Theatre Company, the Cutting Ball Theater, American Conservatory Theater, San Jose Repertory Theatre, Joe Goode Performance Group, and the Magic Theatre. She has also worked at Second Stage Theatre, Yale Repertory Theatre, Center Stage in Baltimore, South Coast Repertory, Atlantic Theater Company, Brooklyn Academy of Music, Chicago Opera Theater, NY Stage and Film, Hartford Stage, Kirk Douglas Theatre, Portland Stage Company, and Dallas Theater Center. Meg is a graduate of the Yale School of Drama and Brown University and resides in San Francisco with her husband and three children.
Broken Chord · Sound Design / Vocal Direction / Original Compositions
Broken Chord is Daniel Baker, Aaron Meicht, and Phillip Peglow. Previously at Berkeley Rep they wrote the music and created the sound design for Ruined. In New York, they’ve designed for the Atlantic Theatre Company, Cherry Lane Theatre, the Incubator Arts Project, Juilliard, Keen Company, Manhattan Theatre Club, Primary Stages, the Public Theater, Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, Roundabout Theatre Company, and Second Stage Theatre. Their regional credits include productions for Actors Theatre of Louisville, Portland Center Stage, Dallas Theater Center, Hartford Stage, Huntington Theatre Company, La Jolla Playhouse, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, People’s Light & Theatre, the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, Shakespeare Theatre Company, Trinity Repertory Company, and Yale Repertory Theatre. Visit brokenchordcollective.com.
Alexander V. Nichols · Projection Design
Alex is returning to Berkeley Rep for his 29th production. His Broadway credits include Wishful Drinking, Hugh Jackman—Back On Broadway, and Nice Work If You Can Get It. His off-Broadway productions include In Masks Outrageous and Austere, Los Big Names, Horizon, Bridge & Tunnel, Taking Over, Through the Night, and In the Wake. Alex has worked at regional theatres throughout the country, including American Conservatory Theater, Mark Taper Forum, National Theatre of Taiwan, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and La Jolla Playhouse, among others. His dance credits include resident designer for Pennsylvania Ballet, Hartford Ballet, and American Repertory Ballet; lighting supervisor for American Ballet Theatre; and resident visual designer for the Margaret Jenkins Dance Company since 1989. His designs are in the permanent repertory of San Francisco Ballet, Boston Ballet, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Hubbard Street Dance, Hong Kong Ballet, Singapore Dance Theatre, ODC/SF, and the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. Alex’s recent projects include the museum installation Circle of Memory, a collaboration with Eleanor Coppola, recently presented in Stockholm, Sweden, and the video and visual design for Life: A Journey Through Time, a collaboration with Frans Lanting and Philip Glass, recently presented at the Concertgebouw, Amsterdam.
Amy Potozkin · Casting
This is Amy’s 25th season at Berkeley Rep. Through the years she has also had the pleasure of casting plays for ACT (Seattle), Arizona Theatre Company, Aurora Theatre Company, B Street Theatre, Bay Area Playwrights Festival, Dallas Theater Center, Marin Theatre Company, the Marsh, San Jose Repertory Theatre, Social Impact Productions Inc., and Traveling Jewish Theatre. Amy cast roles for various indie films, including Conceiving Ada, starring Tilda Swinton; Haiku Tunnel and Love & Taxes, both by Josh Kornbluth; and Beyond Redemption by Britta Sjogren. Amy received her MFA from Brandeis University, where she was also an artist in residence. She has been a coach to hundreds of actors, has taught acting at Mills College and audition technique at Berkeley Rep’s School of Theatre, and has led workshops at numerous other venues in the Bay Area. Prior to working at Berkeley Rep, she was an intern at Playwrights Horizons in New York. Amy is a member of CSA, the Casting Society of America.
Calleri Casting · Casting
Calleri Casting is James Calleri, Paul Davis, and Erica Jensen. Their most recent theatre credits include Venus in Fur on Broadway and the long-running Fuerza Bruta, as well as All in the Timing, My Name is Asher Lev, the revival of Passion, and The Revisionist starring Vanessa Redgrave and Jesse Eisenberg. Some past Broadway credits include 33 Variations, Chicago, James Joyce’s The Dead, and A Raisin in the Sun. Calleri also cast for shows at the Civilians, Classic Stage Company, Epic Theatre Ensemble, the Flea Theater, Keen Company, Long Wharf Theatre, McCarter Theatre Center, New Georges, the Old Globe, Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, STAGEFARM, Summer Play Festival, and Williamstown Theatre Festival. They cast 10 seasons with Playwrights Horizons, including such plays as Betty’s Summer Vacation, Goodnight Children Everywhere, Lobby Hero, Small Tragedy, and Violet, to name a few. Their TV credits include Army Wives, Ed, Hope & Faith, Lipstick Jungle, Monk, and Z Rock, and film credits include Another Earth, Armless, Merchant Ivory’s The City of Your Final Destination, Heights, Lisa Picard is Famous, Peter & Vandy, Ready? OK!, Trouble Every Day, The White Countess, and Yearbook. Calleri received 12 Artios Awards for Outstanding Achievement in Casting and is a member of CSA.
Kimberly Mark Webb · Stage Manager
Kimberly’s credits at Berkeley Rep include more than 75 productions over the last 30-plus years. His other work includes productions for Center Theatre Group, New York’s Joyce Festival, the Huntington Theatre Company, La Jolla Playhouse, Williamstown Theatre Festival, American Conservatory Theater, and Kansas City Repertory Theatre. Kimberly served as production stage manager at Theatre Three in Dallas for six years.
Joy Dickson · Casting
Marissa Joy Ganz · Assistant Director
Adam Sussman · Assistant to the director
Malcolm K. Darrell · Black Panther/Young Lords liaison
Lynne Soffer · Dialect Coach
Dave Maier · Fight Director
Sofie Miller · Production Assistant
J. Bernard Calloway · Blue (October 17–November 23)
J. Bernard is making his Berkeley Rep debut. On Broadway he played Delray in the 2010 Tony Award-winning Best Musical Memphis at the Shubert Theatre. He also portrayed the civil rights activist Ralph Abernathy in the 2014 Tony Award-winning Best Play All The Way at the Neil Simon Theatre. Off Broadway, J. was an original cast member of the Pulitzer Prize-nominated hit The Good Negro, directed by Liesl Tommy at the Public Theater. Regionally, J. has worked at La Jolla Playhouse, the 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle, TheatreWorks in Palo Alto, the Fox Theatre in Atlanta, Arkansas Repertory Theatre, and North Shore Music Theatre, just to name a few. He has a wide range and variety of film, TV, commercial, and voiceover credits.
G. Valmont Thomas · Blue (November 25–30)
G. Valmont Thomas is making his Berkeley Rep debut with Party People. He has appeared in Seattle at West of Lenin in Master Harold…and the boys (Sam, directed by M. Burke Walker), the Huntington Theatre Company in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (Cutler, directed by Liesl Tommy), The Cherry Orchard (Yasha, directed by Dan Sullivan) at Seattle Repertory Theatre, Seven Guitars (Red Carter, directed by Kenny Leon) at Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Radio Golf (Roosevelt), and Two Trains Running (Memphis, directed by Tim Bond) at Syracuse Stage and Geva Theatre. He was in the acting company of OSF for 13 seasons, appearing as Blue in Party People, Macbeth in Macbeth, Falstaff in The Merry Wives of Windsor, Feste in Twelfth Night, Lincoln in TopDog/UnderDog, and Solly in Gem of The Ocean. Film and television credits: Child in the Night, Singles, and I Love You to Death. He was the recipient of the 2013 Gregory Award for Outstanding Performance by an Actor from Theatre Puget Sound. G. Val served on the faculty of the Johnny Carson School of Theatre and Film at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Michael Elich · Marcus / FBI Agent
Michael is pleased to be reuniting with UNIVERSES as an original cast member of Party People. He recently premiered the role of Gregor in Amy Freed’s The Monster-Builder at Artists Repertory Theatre in Portland and portrayed Mark Rothko in Red at the Clarence Brown Theatre in Tennessee. In 20 seasons with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Michael has played in 47 productions, including The Pirate King in The Pirates of Penzance, King John in King John, Feste in Darko Tresnjak’s Twelfth Night, Harold Hill in The Music Man, Petruchio in The Taming of the Shrew, Harry Van in Idiot’s Delight, Thersites in Troilus and Cressida, Buckingham in Richard III, Hotspur in Henry IV, Aufidius in Coriolanus, Moe Axelrod in Awake and Sing!, and premiered the role of Don D’Avanzo in Continental Divide, directed by Tony Taccone, a co-production with Berkeley Rep which transferred to London. A Juilliard graduate, Michael has appeared in numerous off-Broadway and regional theatres, and appeared in the TV shows One Life to Live and Ryan’s Hope. Visit michaelelich.com.
Christopher Livingston · Malik
Christopher last appeared at Berkeley Rep in Mary Zimmerman’s The White Snake. His off-Broadway credits include The Urban Retreat at the Public Theater (studio series) and The Architecture of Becoming at Women’s Project. He’s also been seen in The Whipping Man at Portland Center Stage; The White Snake, The Imaginary Invalid, Hamlet, Henry IV Part 1, The Pirates of Penzance, and Party People at Oregon Shakespeare Festival; Romeo & Juliet at Virginia Stage Company; The Youth Ink Theater Festival at McCarter Theatre Center; and Black Nativity at Intiman Theatre. His TV and film credits include Unforgettable, Modern Day Black Gay, and The Drug Facts Action Pack. Christopher has a BFA in acting from Rutgers University.
Amy Lizardo · Clara
Amy is an actress and singer based in the Bay Area. She was most recently seen in The Taming of the Shrew as Tranio with San Francisco Shakespeare Festival, Hundred Days as Sarah with Z Space, Hedwig and the Angry Inch as Yitzhak with Boxcar Theatre, and The Wiz as Addaperle with Berkeley Playhouse. Amy received her master’s degree from San Jose State University in 2010.
Jesse J. Perez · Tito
Jesse has been seen at Berkeley Rep in The Arabian Nights and Argonautika, both directed by Mary Zimmerman, as well as last season’s Accidental Death of an Anarchist. His New York credits include Triple Happiness at Second Stage Theatre, Barrio Grrrl at Summer Play Festival (directed by Liesl Tommy), Recent Tragic Events at Playwrights Horizons, In the Penal Colony at Classic Stage Company, Up Against the Wind at New York Theatre Workshop, and Lucia di Lammermoor at the Metropolitan Opera. Regionally he has worked at Yale Repertory Theatre, Seattle Repertory Theatre, American Repertory Theatre, the Guthrie Theater, Humana Festival of New Plays, the Goodman Theatre, the Shakespeare Theatre, and McCarter Theatre Center. Internationally he has worked at the Venice Biennale in Italy and at the Salzburg Festival in Austria, and has various film and television credits. Jesse is also a choreographer and teacher at the Juilliard School.
Sophia Ramos · Maruca
Sophia has sung with an impressive list of studio and stage collaborators, including Jason Newsted of Metallica, Paul Simon, Joey Ramone, Shakira, and Psychotica, with whom she appeared on the mainstage of the Lollapalooza tour with Soundgarden and Rage Against the Machine. She had sung behind such artists as Rod Stewart, Mary J. Blige, and Lionel Ritchie on The Late Show with David Letterman, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, and Good Morning America. She starred as Janis Joplin in Love, Janis for the Arizona Theater Company and was proud to be the first Latina cast in the role. She also starred in the world premiere of Robert Schenkkan and Neil Berg’s rock musical The 12 at the New Victory Theater in New York. On film, she starred in Carmelita Tropicana’s Your Kunst Is Your Waffen, winner of the Berlin Film Festival Teddy Award and the award for Best Short at the San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival.
Robynn Rodriguez · Donna / Fina
A native of the San Francisco Bay Area, Robynn is always thrilled to be back at Berkeley Rep, where she was last seen in Tony Kushner’s The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures and the world premiere production of Ghost Light, created and developed by Tony Taccone and Jonathan Moscone. She was also in Berkeley Rep’s production of The Oresteia and the world premiere of David Edgar’s Continental Divide (a co-production with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival), which toured to La Jolla Playhouse, Birmingham Repertory Theatre, and the Barbican in London. For 22 seasons, Robynn was a member of the resident acting company at Oregon Shakespeare Festival, where she appeared in over 40 productions. Her work has been seen at the Guthrie Theater, the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Intiman Theatre, the Denver Center Theatre Company, and the Shakespeare Theatre Company, among others.
William Ruiz · Co-Creator / Jimmy
William’s playwriting/acting credits include Ameriville (directed and developed by Chay Yew) and Waiting for Gordo (adapted from Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot). He also performed in Slanguage (directed and developed by Jo Bonney), Jack Kerouac’s Ti-Jean Blues (adapted and directed by JoAnne Akalaitis), Nicole Quinn’s Tree Tails (directed by Shelly Wyant), Oscar Wilde’s Salome (directed by Nick Jones), Anthony Rivera’s Latin Howel (directed by Todd A. Jackson), and Nicky Cruz’s Run Baby Run (directed by Chris Fredricks). William was a 2008 Ambassador of Culture for the U.S. State Department and participated in Rhythm Road Tour with Jazz at Lincoln Center. He is the founder/artistic director of BARDOS Theater Co. (based in Puerto Rico) and a member of the Network of Ensemble Theatres. His publication credits include UNIVERSES—The Big Bang (2015, TCG Books) and Party People in The Manifesto Anthology (Rain City Projects). William received a BA from Bard College.
Mildred Ruiz-Sapp · Co-Creator / Helita
Mildred is a co-founder and core member of UNIVERSES. Her playwriting/acting credits include Ameriville and Blue Suite (directed and developed by Chay Yew), The Denver Project (directed by Dee Covington), One Shot in Lotus Position (directed by Bonnie Metzger), Rhythmicity and The Ride (directed by Steven Sapp), and Slanguage (directed and developed by Jo Bonney). She has also performed in The Comedy of Errors (directed by Kent Gash), The Unfortunates (directed by Shana Cooper), and Alfred Jarry’s Ubu: Enchained (directed by Steven Sapp). Mildred was a 2008 Ambassador of Culture for the U.S. State Department and participated in Rhythm Road Tour with Jazz at Lincoln Center. She is the recipient of the 2008 TCG Peter Zeisler Award, the 2006 Career Advancement Fellowship from the Ford Foundation through Pregones Theater, the TCG National Theater Artist Residency Program Award, and the BRIO Award (Bronx Recognizes Its Own). She is a co-founder of the Point CDC and a board member at the National Performance Network. Her publication credits include UNIVERSES—The Big Bang (2015, TCG Books), Slanguage in the Fire This Time (TCG Books), and Party People in The Manifesto Anthology (Rain City Projects). Mildred received a BA from Bard College.
Steven Sapp · Co-Creator / Omar
Steven is a co-founder and core member of UNIVERSES. His playwriting/acting credits include Ameriville and Blue Suite (directed and developed by Chay Yew), The Denver Project (directed by Dee Covington), One Shot in Lotus Position (directed by Bonnie Metzger), and Slanguage (directed and developed by Jo Bonney). He directed and performed in Rhythmicity, and wrote, directed, and performed in The Ride. He also acted in The Comedy of Errors (directed by Kent Gash) and directed Will Powers’ The Seven at the University of Iowa. He was a 2008 Ambassador of Culture for the U.S. State Department and participated in Rhythm Road Tour with Jazz at Lincoln Center. Steven is the recipient of the 2008 TCG Peter Zeisler Award, the 2002 TCG National Directors Award, the TCG National Theater Artist Residency Program Award, the 1998 and 2002 BRIO Awards (Bronx Recognizes Its Own), and a Van Lier Fellowship with New Dramatists. He is a co-founder of the Point CDC. His publication credits include UNIVERSES—The Big Bang (2015, TCG Books), Slanguage in the Fire This Time (TCG Books), and Party People in The Manifesto Anthology (Rain City Projects). Steven received a BA from Bard College.
Reggie D. White · Solias / Production Dance Captain
Reggie is thrilled to be making his Berkeley Rep debut with Party People and hopes everyone seeing this show appreciates how significant this moment is in our history as Americans and humans. Reggie was previously seen in the world premiere of the musical Hundred Days at Z Space and has performed around the San Francisco Bay Area at San Jose Repertory Theatre, Marin Theatre Company, TheatreWorks, Crowded Fire Theater, Lorraine Hansberry Theatre, Intersection for the Arts, the San Francisco Mime Troupe, and others. He is a Theatre Bay Area Titan Award winner, and is the recipient of the 2014 RHE Foundation’s Artistic Fellowship. Check out his 140-charactered musings on Twitter at @R2ThaEdgy or see reggiedwhite.com for more information.
C. Kelly Wright · Amira
UNIVERSES’ Party People marks C. Kelly’s Berkeley Rep debut. A Bay Area veteran, she last appeared as The Lady in The Scottsboro Boys at American Conservatory Theater, earning her a 2012 Bay Area Theatre Critics Award for Best Featured Female in a Musical. Off Broadway, she starred in Negro Ensemble Company’s revival of The Great MacDaddy,and her performance as Madam in Langston in Harlem at Urban Stages earned an AUDELCO Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress. Regionally, C. Kelly earned a Barrymore Best Actress nomination for Pearl Johnson in Black Pearl Sings! at InterAct Theatre Company, Philadelphia. Other noted Bay Area favorites include Caroline, or Change; Radio Golf; It Ain’t Nothin But the Blues; A Civil War Christmas; Crowns; and the world premiere of Memphis at TheatreWorks, which went on to win four Tony Awards. C. Kelly’s recent television work includes Law & Order, Carrie Diaries, and Gossip Girls, and recent films include Angel Wishes, Everyday Black Man, and the Fox feature Black Nativity.
The actors and stage managers are members of Actors’ Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.
“As intellectually stimulating as its fluid, nonstop action is overwhelming…Fast, confrontational, reflective by turns, and packed with music and dance as propulsive as the years when the groups were spawned…Volatile, fiery choreography and spirit-moving blues, jazz, work-song and Latino songs…Showstopping numbers…A well-deserved, prolonged standing ovation…Power to the people, indeed!”—San Francisco Chronicle
“As relevant and as thought-provoking as it is, Party People is also mightily entertaining…From the extraordinary opening musical number that creates historical context for this intertwining story of the Panthers and the Lords, we become caught up in the flow of revolutionary zeal…The audience was instantly on its collective feet at show’s end, applauding thunderously, shouting and hooting.”—Theater Dogs
“People can (and should) debate how Party People stands as a political statement, but as a piece of theater it’s a crusher. Maybe it’s all too much for Oregon, but the Berkeley crowd ate it up. And why shouldn’t they? The show is good for: Revolutionaries, bystanders and regretful sellouts alike. The show is not good for: The Man.”—Edge San Francisco
“This play is extraordinarily valuable, it’s crucial to an understanding of that turbulent time…Let me tell you, I was there, and this play captures us. It captures the coalition of black and brown young people trying to make change and fighting the repression that came down against us.”—Bobby Seale, co-founder of the Black Panthers with Huey P. Newton
“High-energy, vibrant, roller coaster ride—via dialogue, monologue, poetry, music and dance—of the rise and fall of the Black Panther Party and the Young Lords, two minority-based revolutionary groups of the 1960s and 1970s.”—Ashland Daily Tidings
“Thrilling…A relentlessly kinetic musical memoir about the ambitions and regrets of 1960s revolutionaries…Powerful and raw…Millicent Johnnie’s choreography is haunting, evoking complicated themes with simple movements. The music, which incorporates salsa, hip-hop, gospel and blues, is flat-out hypnotic…Let the production wash over you like a jagged theatrical collage, [and] Party People will leave its mark on you.”—San Jose Mercury News / Bay Area News Group
“This show is all about feeling and, more generally, humanity…Takes the standard musical formula and completely rips it up, unceremonious shreds it to pieces, and thankfully refuses to acknowledge the restrictions of standard theater convention. And thank our lucky stars for that. This is pure adrenaline.”—Stark Insider
“You’re in for an exhilarating evening…Under the direction of Liesl Tommy, the evening’s insistent and infectious music, including the hip-hop (of which I confess, I am not a fan), the choreography, scenic and lighting design, camera projection and general stage craft are all original and all first rate. The talented actors make the topnotch writing come alive. Party People has outstanding visceral, emotional and intellectual impact. That’s very rare in one piece of theater.”—Berkeleyside
“A dazzling creation by the New York-based theatre collective known as UNIVERSES…Party People is an artful mixture of spoken poetry, hip-hop theatre, blues, jazz, gospel and rap. Mesmerizing monologues punctuate this well-balanced theatrical potpourri.”—KLCC Radio Eugene
Prologue: from the Artistic Director
What is your image of the Black Panthers? Do you remember the Young Lords? How do these groups live in your mind, in our collective memory, in that immense collection of conflicting narratives that we call the annals of history? Do you remember their accomplishments or their failures? The fervent idealism that fueled the beginning of the movement, or the bitter cynicism in the aftermath of its tragic end? After all is said and done, what do you think is the legacy of the Black Panthers and the Young Lords?
These are the central questions and motivating forces behind Party People, a project that took years to research. Led by UNIVERSES, a trio of artists in fierce pursuit of personal and historical truth, countless interviews were conducted with scores of people affiliated with both groups. Being much younger than the people they were interviewing, UNIVERSES found themselves alternately amazed and surprised, elated and depressed. Many old wounds had not healed, some old rivalries remained intact, and memories were frequently fractured and painful. And yet, the breadth of vision was still inspiring, the goals worthy, and the accomplishments real. How to capture all that?
Enlisting the long-term guidance of director Liesl Tommy, they focused on creating a fictional dramatic situation set in the present that evokes scenes from the past. Relying on their unique performance skills that combine spoken word with a variety of musical idioms ranging from blues to jazz to salsa, the result is a singular theatrical experience that transmutes history into art. And the journey of the characters reflects the journey of the artists themselves: a generation trying to mine the experiences of their forebears, trying to understand the past as a way of living more fully in the present.
Party People was first developed and produced by our good friends at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. We both admired that production and felt the play was ripe for a deeper investigation of both character and story. UNIVERSES were under no obligation to rewrite the play, but they have embraced the task with openness, rigor, and courage. Tonight you will see the results of these formidable efforts. Here in Berkeley, home of the Free Speech Movement and sister city to Oakland, where so much of the history of the Panthers was written. We hope that the play catalyzes your imagination, activates your spirit, and brokers some sense of solidarity as we all make our way into the uncertain future.
Prologue: from the Managing Director
When, in the middle of the 20th century, nonprofit theatres began to spring up in cities across the country, in places like Milwaukee, Oklahoma City, Houston, and Washington, DC, they were founded by individuals who, while operating out of an individual sense of empowerment, were inspired by a remarkably consistent set of values. Almost all of those founders spoke of shaking off the yoke of New York’s artistic hegemony, of providing dignity of work to local theatre practitioners, and of the urgency to create work that spoke uniquely to their own communities.
The notion that stories might be unique to a community and might be uniquely valued by disparate communities was a genuinely new and thrilling idea and went hand in hand with the recognition that a classic might become new and might speak in a new and distinctive way to a particular community if told through the lens and experience of that locality.
It is in that spirit that we bring you Party People, a story that speaks with a particular resonance to the Bay Area. This is one of our stories and the telling of it is an act of communal remembering. Revisiting that time and place demands that each of us commit some time to considering what that moment, what these people, meant to us. Party People asks that we reconsider, in light of what we know now, what we thought then.
One of the pleasures of this kind of communal remembrance is the opportunity to collaborate with colleagues who share our passion for community. In this case, it is a real joy and privilege to work with our friends at the Oakland Museum of California. While their major exhibition commemorating the Black Panthers had long been scheduled for 2016, they agreed to jump-start some of their own research to work with us on this project.
And while our Berkeley Rep School of Theatre assiduously works to link our programming with their work in the public schools, this play has provided a particularly rich opportunity to link Bay Area children to an important local as well as national movement.
We’re grateful to UNIVERSES and to this dynamic group of artists who are so ardently committed to Party People for allowing us to speak so eloquently to our own Bay Area history.
A revolution and its legacy
By Madeleine Oldham
Since the abolition of slavery after the Civil War, race relations in the United States have walked a line between progress and regress. Oppression is woven into the fabric of this country, and attempting to extract it has proven thorny, bloody, and in some cases fatal. In recent history alone, the stories of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, and Oscar Grant, to name only those who caught the national eye, remind us that racial tensions remain volatile and combustible.
2016 will mark the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Black Panthers. Their legacy still resonates loudly today, as many of the issues they sought to address—racial bias in the police force, urban poverty, lack of educational and economic opportunity, among others—still loom large as national problems in need of urgent attention. A look back at the history of this seminal organization helps us to remember that when rage erupts in response to racial injustice, such instances do not exist in a bubble. They are embedded in a very complicated lineage.
The Civil Rights Movement made great strides in dismantling legal discrimination. On paper, the United States could at last live up to its constitutional ideology that all people are created equal. But the actuality of life as a black person in America told a very different story. Though the laws changed, the power structure did not—prejudice continued to thrive and a disparity grew between how things were supposed to be and how things really were.
As the 1960s marched on, young people in particular became restless and frustrated with the nonviolent tactics of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement. Many held great respect for Dr. King, but the slow rate of change failed to satisfy a hunger for results. In addition, the majority of civil rights activity focused on the South, which left other parts of the country impatient for tangible progress.
In 1966, two friends and activists who met in community college, Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale, sought to take a radical stand against racial oppression and formalized the Black Panther Party for Self Defense in Oakland, California. Tired of seeing people of color denied opportunity, unfairly targeted by governmental authorities, brutalized and even murdered without cause, they could not sit idly by while injustice prevailed as the status quo.
The Black Panthers, inspired in part by the teachings of Malcolm X, intended to establish a separate nation for black citizens. They declared the U.S. government an imperialist state that had colonized Black America, and demanded freedom. The Panthers saw the police force as a major manifestation of imperialism, and a central tenet of their platform was the strategy of policing the police. They sought to expose racism within the police system, and refused to recognize them as having absolute authority. They formed armed citizen patrols that followed officers in order to curtail any abuse of power that might have been more likely to occur were they unobserved. When they first began challenging the police, the Panthers strove to remain within the confines of the law while constantly testing its limits. (This stance, however, became harder to maintain as the party grew and tensions escalated.)
Policing the police dovetailed with draft resistance. The Panthers saw no reason that black men should have to defend the racist U.S. government. And they correlated how the United States treated black citizens with what was happening in Vietnam, declaring the war just another attempt at colonization. This struck a nerve with the burgeoning anti-war movement, and garnered a groundswell of support from white liberals.
As communities across the United States recognized the impact the party was having, the Black Panther movement snowballed nationally. Central headquarters remained in Oakland, and chapters opened all over the country. While being a member of the party required a willingness to embrace violence if necessary, it also involved a serious commitment to community service. The Panthers launched numerous programs designed to better the lives of people living in urban environments, the most well-known of which was its Free Breakfast for Children Program, which provided daily before-school meals for over 10,000 children nationwide.
However, as the party’s influence increased, its opposition came alive. The government felt so threatened by the party’s anti-establishment platform and the startling amount of support they amassed in only a couple of years that a plan was formulated to squelch the Black Panthers by any means necessary. The FBI led by J. Edgar Hoover authorized its domestic Counter Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO) to target the Panthers, and directed its vast resources at crippling them. COINTELPRO adopted every trick in the book, many of them illegal, and systematically chipped away at the bonds, loyalties, relationships, and lives that comprised the Black Panthers.
The heyday of the Black Panther Party lasted only a few years. By 1969, Hoover’s government informants and agent provocateurs had thoroughly infiltrated. Distrust and suspicion permeated the organization, and party members began to turn on each other. Hairline fractures developed into divisive cracks. Disagreements mushroomed into lifelong rivalries. Rumors of internal assassination orders circulated. The lines between sanctioned and unsanctioned activity began to blur, and the Panthers began to self-destruct.
Despite their checkered demise, the Black Panthers survive in our collective memory. Sometimes viewed as crusaders of justice, other times as disruptive extremists, they drew international attention to the dire situation of many black Americans, and worked tirelessly to improve it. The embedded racism they fought so hard to combat has yet to be eradicated from life in this country. As the struggle continues, their legacy lives on.
Puerto Rico en mi Corazón: The Young Lords
By Julie McCormick
The moment for the formation of the Young Lords Organization was ripe. The Civil Rights Movement and protests against the Vietnam War raised consciousness, incited action, and connected like-minded activists from different groups like the Black Panthers, Blackstone Rangers, Brown Berets, Young Patriots, and the Red Guard Party. Many believed that the kind of sweeping social change necessary to end systematic discrimination was only possible through violent action. For some, it was an important expression of our Second Amendment right and a necessary catalyst for change. Decisive action sat alongside community programming and a deep sense of Puerto Rican nationalism in the Young Lords, a combination that proved to be electrifying, unsettling, and wholly unique to this moment in history.
The Young Lords got their start in the late 1960s. Originally a Puerto Rican turf gang in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago, the Young Lords galvanized into a more political force when Mayor Richard Daley launched an urban renewal campaign to “keep Chicago clean.” When the authorities started evicting Latino residents from prime real estate along the lakefront and near the Loop, the Young Lords stepped in to protest. In September of 1968, José “Cha-Cha” Jiménez officially established the Young Lords as a civil rights organization. Under the rallying cry “Puerto Rico en mi Corazón,” they sought Puerto Rican independence, as well as greater self-determination and quality of life for all Latinos and impoverished peoples in the U.S.
Their organizational structure closely followed that of Oakland, California’s Black Panther Party. Like the Panthers, social programming, sit-ins, and demonstrations undergirded the bulk of the Chicago Young Lords activities. Occupying spaces became an important tool for radical groups, both as a way of raising awareness and leveraging demands. In one successful protest organized by the Young Lords, 400 people camped out on land that once housed 35 Puerto Rican families and was slated to become a $1,000-a-year tennis court club. After a week of the occupation, the tennis club removed its bid and the space was turned into a People’s Park.
The Young Lords also staged a takeover of Armitage Avenue United Methodist Church in order to use the space for community programs. The congregation later renamed it “the People’s Church,” and the walls were covered with murals of Latino activists and the Young Lord’s slogan, “Tengo Puerto Rico en mi Corazón.” Here, they established a free breakfast program for children, free community day care, the Emeterio Betances Free Health Clinic, a Puerto Rican cultural center, and a national headquarters office.
The sparks in Chicago erupted into a wildfire that swept the country, with new chapters of the Young Lords springing to life in cities across the United States. In the summer of 1969, Nuyorican poet Felipe Luciano drove to Chicago with a VW full of fellow activists seeking permission to create a New York chapter of the Young Lords, and to observe the revolution in Chicago firsthand. They returned to New York with a new fire in their hearts, and officially signed the New York chapter of the Young Lords into existence.
One of their first acts was to go to East Harlem and ask the residents what changes they wanted to see in their community. Luciano recalls being surprised at the answer: they had expected people to want more affordable housing options, but really, the top priority was dealing with garbage. New York City garbage collectors were infamous for ignoring low-income neighborhoods of color; the uncollected trash would pile up in the streets for weeks at a time. So that summer, the New York Young Lords launched what came to be known as “The Garbage Offensive.” Arming themselves with brooms and bins, the Young Lords cleaned up the streets themselves, and appealed to the city to increase pickups. These pleas, however, went unheard, and in response they piled the trash in the middle of busy streets and lit it on fire. The flames and stopped traffic were impossible to ignore.
Like in Chicago, many of the New York Young Lords’ actions focused on providing access to health care and education. They took over the First Spanish Methodist Church, where they established free day care for working parents, a breakfast program, a clothing drive, and classes about Latino/a history and culture. The organization continued to grow and evolve, and in May 1970, the New York Young Lords peaceably split from the Chicago mother office. They renamed themselves the Young Lords Party (as opposed to the Young Lords Organization), and became the regional headquarters for neighboring chapters on the East Coast. That summer, they commandeered a mobile chest X-ray unit to conduct free tuberculosis screenings in underserved areas. In one neighborhood, they found that a third of the residents showed signs of TB. The Young Lords also went door-to-door testing for lead paint, and occupied Lincoln Hospital for 24 hours to demand more patient services.
Despite their increasing reach and volume, the Young Lords were beset with troubles very early in their history. Key members were constantly harassed by law enforcement, and brought up on charges of variable legitimacy. “Cha-Cha” Jiménez of the Chicago branch was indicted 18 times in a six-week period for charges like assault, battery on police, and mob action. He was jailed multiple times for his political activities, and at one point, Chicago leadership was forced to go underground to continue operations. Organization members all over the country died under mysterious circumstances or were murdered in prison. Many of these deaths were not fully investigated at the time, and remain unsolved to this day. Ideological differences tugged at the bonds between members. Some were resolved, but others were not. Though a certain level of in-fighting is to be expected in a political organization, it was later discovered that much of this was likely incited by police and FBI agents who had infiltrated the Young Lords. Many left-wing and civil rights groups at that time were bedeviled by COINTELPRO, the FBI’s Counter Intelligence Program from 1956–1971. The covert operations launched against these domestic political groups were insidious, damaging, and often illegal.
The Young Lords burned hot and bright for just a few short years. Though the formal organization is no longer active, embers still smolder in the memories of those who participated in the movement or were somehow touched by the Young Lords and their programs.
UNIVERSES and the inspiration for Party People
UNIVERSES is a national and international theatre ensemble who create dynamic, adventurous work. They incorporate lots of music—from hip hop to blues and everything in between, and embrace spoken word, politics, video, and more. They’ve made a name for themselves making plays that break traditional molds, and establishing a truly original voice that speaks its mind with a bold vision.
Below are excerpts from conversations featuring the three members of UNIVERSES responsible for creating Party People: Steven Sapp, Mildred Ruiz-Sapp, and William Ruiz, aka Ninja, as well as their director, Liesl Tommy.
The Black Panther and Young Lord connection
Steven Sapp: We’re direct recipients of the programs established by the Black Panthers and the Young Lords. For us, it’s more than just a moment in history. It’s a part of our lives and how we grew up. So it was a natural thing for us to want to focus on. We also wanted to show that it is a major moment in American history. Some people don’t consider it that, but we do.
Ninja: The Black Panthers and the Young Lords started breakfast programs for students before they went to school—those programs are still running today. A lot of people see the guns and the black jackets and they think that’s what it was about, but really it was about making sure that the people in the community who were left behind were no longer left behind. And we could not depend on the government to make sure that we were not left behind, we had to depend on ourselves to do it.
Mildred Ruiz-Sapp: Some things that they fought for, and were arrested and killed for, are now government policy. Things that today you see as normal rights and access—they’re the ones who fought for them. And that’s why it’s so important.
It was an international voice. They’re not just this local group that affected these little tiny communities; their voices became national and international. And it was about social change and fighting for the rights of people. And if that meant sometimes being armed, because our constitution said that we could be armed, it also meant upholding the laws of the United States and making sure that the United States understood its own laws. And if it made the argument for some people to bear arms, it also had to make the argument for everyone to bear arms. And I think that people don’t understand that.
Inspiration for Party People
Steven: We were looking at some footage of some Panthers and Young Lords’ celebrations and reunions—they do them every year. You could see that different people had very different looks on their faces. A lot of them hadn’t been around each other in a while—maybe the last conversation they had with someone wasn’t the most pleasant. There were suspicions of who was an agent and who wasn’t. And all of a sudden they’re thrust back into a room together to be Black Panthers and Young Lords. Some things haven’t been dealt with. Some people don’t get along. So we were looking at that thinking, that’s interesting.
If you didn’t know that they were from particular political groups, you would think that it was someone’s family reunion—the way they interact with each other with all the good, bad, and ugly of family reunions—there are pictures, their kids know each other. When we saw that, we knew that’s where our story was. Can we start at a reunion and try to bring some people back in the room? What does that bring up? Where do we go? What do they remember? What do they reveal? What did someone think about somebody 30 years ago that gets revealed now?
For instance, we heard a story that Kathleen Cleaver, who was a Black Panther, was in Algiers and got a letter saying: if you come back here to the United States, you will be killed. That was basically the gist of the letter. She thought it was from this guy Big Man Howard, who was also a Black Panther. She took it seriously and did not return for a long time. She saw Big Man after 30 years at a Black Panther event, walked up to him and said, “I just have to ask you: it’s been years, but did you send me that letter?” And he said, “What letter? I didn’t send you no letter!” And she was onstage and she said, “Do you know how that makes me feel? For 30 years I held this.” They’d never connected to have that conversation.
So that is the kind of story that we’re looking at. It’s not just the romanticized version: black-and-white pictures, shotguns. It’s really about that type of connection.
The interview process
Mildred: The New England Foundation for the Arts and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival were instrumental in helping us get across the country so that we could conduct a lot of interviews with Black Panther members and Young Lords members, as well as the children of the Black Panthers and the Young Lords, and local community members who were impacted by them or have an opinion one way or another.
Ninja: Going around to each of these states and cities, we got to meet the players and understand what were the problems in each of those places. You know, America’s wide, and the problems in the east side of the United States are not necessarily the same problems going on in the west side, or the south. So each chapter—they were called chapters—had different struggles to face. That’s what we’re finding out in the interviews, as we go to each state, and ask, “Why were you fighting? We know you were a Black Panther, but what were you fighting for? You were a Young Lord, what were you fighting for? And you were a Young Lord, were you fighting for the same thing?”
And then we’re hearing about the abuse that they received for simply doing their jobs. They were very heavily guarded by the police. Any time anybody got out of line or anybody got close to getting out of line, the police were there to say, “Oh, that guy has crossed the line, we’ve got to take him out.” And they did.
Steven: There is—especially in the communities we come from and the revolutionary and activist circle—a level of blessing you have to get in order to move forward. You’re supposed to give your elders a certain amount of respect. So for us, you could read 20 books about the Black Panthers and get some articles about the Young Lords and see everything on YouTube, and you could write a play—but that is very disrespectful. You have to talk to them. And it can be very intimidating. But they really respect the fact that you come to them, face to face, to really hear where they’re coming from. Now, will we use everything they said? No, not necessarily. But that level of respect, I think, has allowed us to have access to them in a real genuine way.
Liesl Tommy: I think one of the most moving things about the process so far has been the content of the interviews. The Black Panthers and the Puerto Rican Young Lords have been incredibly generous. They’ve opened their hearts and their intellects and their history to us, and they’ve shared things that were surprising and moving and revolutionary and still so relevant today. You really get the feeling that these were great minds, and we’re so fortunate that they shared their stories with us. I think the challenge and the burden is to honor their stories, to make a really wonderful piece of theatre that affects the audience the way that we were affected when people shared their experiences. You want to respect as well as honor memories of people living and who have passed. So that’s something we have to think about and then, at the same time, kind of lay aside so that we can venture bravely forth.
Mildred: Another thing you have to understand is that their history hasn’t been recorded properly. Growing up, we’re told that they were a racist organization or a nationalist group.
Ninja: I think the word terrorist has been thrown around too.
Mildred: They were painted to be these horrible, horrible people, you know? If you were to look at the uprisings in Berkeley, for instance, you don’t look at those as horrible students who were trying to disrupt the nature of education. You say they were speaking out, they wanted their voices to be heard. But when you have a Black Panther doing the same thing at the same exact time period, they were disrupters of American civilization.
Bringing Party People to the stage
Liesl: The subject matter, for me, is extremely relevant and also personally exciting. I’m originally from South Africa and I grew up during Apartheid, and there were many activists in my life as a child, and so the themes on this topic are very resonant for me, then and now.
UNIVERSES is an incredible theatre company—they are gifted musicians, singers, and dancers; and they use jazz, blues, hip hop, and movement in their performances. They take these interviews and the parts of the history that speak to them, and create a performance piece out of it. Part of my job as a director is to continue to ask questions, to push them to find their truth as well as the story’s truth. Because as artists that’s what we have to do: we have to always, always look to make sure that we’re finding all the truth in ourselves and in the material.
Steven: We have our own slant and take on it. It’s in our style—it’s in UNIVERSES style, which is music and poetry and dance. But it’s also a play. It feels like a 21st-century look at musical theatre. We understand what the rules of theatre are, but we also understand for ourselves how to shake that up.
Compiled from interviews conducted by the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Used with permission.
Want to listen to select articles from the program? Play audio files online—or download and listen to them on your way to the show.
UNIVERSES gave an impromptu performance—on their day off!
See dazzling clips from Party People and hear what audiences say in our new video.
“Tell the truth”
Director Liesl Tommy offers an insightful sneak peek at the show.
Introducing Party People
Michael Leibert Artistic Director Tony Taccone introduces us to the explosive theatre ensemble UNIVERSES and their new show.
Photos courtesy of kevinberne.com
Photos may not be used for commercial or personal use without written permission from Berkeley Rep, and unauthorized alteration, reproduction, or sale of these images is strictly prohibited. Journalists and other members of the media, please visit our online press room.
Get a sneak peek at the music of Party People and listen to two powerful songs: “Omar’s Rant” and “Jimmy Walks.”
The artists of UNIVERSES discuss their process in an engaging Page to Stage interview recorded live October 6, 2014.
Want to listen to select articles from the program? Play these audio files online—or download and listen to them on your way to the show.
The list below includes supplementary resources that we found exciting and helpful, many of which were used in the rehearsal room for Party People. It is by no means an exhaustive list. There are hundreds of excellent memoirs, historical analyses, and collections of artwork from and about this era, and we encourage you to explore those as well as the ones we’ve shared with you below.
Seize the Time: The Story of the Black Panther Party and Huey P. Newton by Bobby Seale
- Bobby Seale, co-founder of the Black Panther Party, created and published this book while incarcerated as a political prisoner in the San Francisco County Jail. The book is a firsthand telling of the formation and evolution of the party.
The Huey P. Newton Reader edited by David Hilliard and Donald Weise
- This collection of writings by Black Panther Party co-founder, Huey P. Newton, includes pieces about the formation of the party, his personal ideologies, and the party’s intersections with other social justice activism and events in the 1960s and ‘70s.
The Black Panther Party [Reconsidered] by Charles E. Jones
- This collection of essays provides extensive analysis of the rise and decline of the Black Panther Party in an “illuminating and unapologetic” way.
- This website provides hundreds of links to useful information about the Black Panther Party, including the program and platform of the party, historical documents, video, photographs, artwork, and updates on the party’s ongoing legacy.
- A 1968 video of a press conference with Bobby Seale in which he discusses police violence in Chicago and across the country.
- The Huffington Post published this article about the assassination of Black Panther Party leader Fred Hampton and the involvement of the FBI’s COINTELPRO.
Palante: Young Lords Party by Michael Abramson
- Photographer Michael Abramson compiled photographs and essays by party members to create this book about the Young Lords party with introduction by former member Iris Morales.
The Young Lords: A Reader by Darrel Enck-Wanzer
- The Young Lords offers readers a comprehensive look at the vibrant organization through the members’ own words, including an array of essays, journalism, photographs, speeches, and pamphlets.
¡Palante, Siempre Palante! (film)
- Former member Iris Morales’ seminal PBS documentary on the Young Lords tells the story of the movement with archival footage and interviews with former members.
- This website for the Young Lords organization provides information and a historical timeline of major events in the movement. The site also provides biographical information on founder José (Cha-Cha) Jiménez, and pieces of poetry and video content created for and about the Young Lords Party.
More about the movements
- The Freedom Archives is a project that chronicles social movements of the late 1960s to today in the Bay Area, the U.S., and internationally. The website contains audio and video recordings and documents from the heart of the free speech movement, the Black Panther Party, and the struggle for Puerto Rican independence, among others.
- The Oakland Museum of California’s collection of political posters can be found on its website. The project was started by Free Speech Movement activist Michael Rossman in 1977, and includes graphics from 1965 until now. OMCA will open an exhibit dedicated to the Black Panther Party’s legacy in the fall of 2016.
- The FBI has made its records gathered through COINTELPRO available online. This website hosts PDFs of records on many organizations in the 1960s.
Party Music: The Inside Story of the Black Panthers’ Band and How Black Power Transformed Soul Music by Rickey Vincent
- Party Music takes a look at the culture of music within the Black Power movement and how anti-war, civil rights, and radical activism shaped soul music. The author tracks the evolution of the Black Panther Party’s R&B house band, The Lumpen, and includes interviews with the band members.
- The official UNIVERSES website provides information regarding the ensemble’s members, previous work, and touring schedule. UNIVERSES’ site also features an extensive bibliography of sources consulted during their creation of Party People. Also on the website is a video gallery with clips of the development and process of the show, as well as video of previous projects.
The Big Bang: Plays, Poetry, and Process by UNIVERSES
- This anthology of UNIVERSES’ work is forthcoming from TCG Books.
Docent talks and discussions
Pre-show docent talks
Meet us in the Theatre an hour before the show on Tuesdays and Thursdays for an engrossing presentation about your subscription-season play. Hear about the playwright’s perspective, dive into the historical context, and discover why the script is relevant right now. Each 30-minute talk includes plenty of time for your questions.
Post-show docent-led discussions
Join your fellow audience members after all matinees and share your thoughts on the show.
Our docents also offer talks off-site
- Monday, October 20 · 6:30pm—Berkeley Public Library
- Wednesday, October 22 · 2pm—Moraga Library
A Conversation with Bobby Seale
Berkeley Rep presents “A Conversation with Bobby Seale,” a one-night-only engagement with the co-founder and former chairman of the Black Panther Party in the Roda Theatre on Monday, November 17, 2014. Seale will offer a rare insider perspective on the history and politics of the Black Panther Party, as well as his current work concerning social justice and human rights issues. The evening will also include a moderated discussion led by Davey D, a nationally recognized journalist and host of KPFA’s Hard Knock Radio, and conclude with a book signing of Seale’s Seize the Time: The Story of the Black Panther Party and Huey P. Newton. “A Conversation with Bobby Seale” is presented in association with the Museum of the African Diaspora, Oakland Museum of California, and UNIVERSES.
- Monday, November 17, 2014
7pm (doors at 6pm) in Berkeley Rep’s Roda Theatre
Seize the Time will be available for purchase at the event. Buy one then or bring your own.
Bobby Seale and Huey Newton created the Black Panther Party in 1966. By 1968 Richard Nixon ordered the FBI to employ “hard-hitting counter-intelligence measures to cripple the Black Panthers.” In 1969 Seale was one of the radicals charged with conspiring to incite riots around the 1968 Democratic Party Convention. He was sentenced to four years in jail for 16 counts of contempt of court. Seale was also charged with conspiracy to murder Alex Rackley, a former Black Panther suspected of being a police informant. The trial ended in a hung jury and the judge ordered all charges against Seale to be dropped. In 1973 Seale took 42 percent of the vote for mayor of Oakland. Over the last 30 years Seale has worked on a variety of community projects and published several books including Seize the Time: The Story of the Black Panther Party and Huey P. Newton (1970), an autobiography, A Lonely Rage (1978), and Barbeque’n with Bobby (1987).
Davey D Cook is a nationally recognized journalist, adjunct professor in the Afro-American Studies program at San Francisco State College, hip-hop historian, syndicated talk-show host, radio programmer, producer, deejay, and media and community activist. Originally from the Bronx, NY, he moved to California and graduated from UC Berkeley. Davey D is the co-founder and host of KPFA’s Hard Knock Radio, an award-winning daily syndicated afternoon show focusing on hip-hop culture and politics.
Talkback with UNIVERSES
In addition to the docent events listed above, UNIVERSES will be hosting talkbacks after the evening performances on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays (excluding previews October 17–23).
Stand Up. Speak Out.
A small revolutions project
Inspired by the style and themes of UNIVERSES’ Party People, Berkeley Rep School of Theatre is collaborating with local community partners—including Youth Speaks and La Peña Cultural Center—to stand up and speak out by developing artistic responses to the themes of the play. See what these groups and others have created at this FREE event!
- Monday, October 27, 2014
7pm (doors at 6:30pm) on Berkeley Rep’s Thrust Stage. First come, first served.
Cap off your night with us after select evening performances throughout the season and sample wine, spirits, and other culinary delights from local vendors—all for FREE! Samplings begin immediately following the performance.
- Saturday, October 18, 2014
Page to Stage
Every season, Berkeley Rep hosts Page to Stage, a series of free discussions with eminent theatre artists, designed to give audiences additional insight into the plays and playwrights produced at Berkeley Rep. Past programs have featured theatre luminaries such as David Edgar, Sarah Jones, Tony Kushner, Delroy Lindo, Donald Margulies, Terrence McNally, Charles Mee, Rita Moreno, Salman Rushdie, and the Chicano performance trio Culture Clash.
- Monday, October 6, 2014
A discussion with UNIVERSES, moderated by Berkeley Rep’s Madeleine Oldham, in the Roda Theatre. Listen to it here!
Each talk starts at 7pm and runs about 60 minutes. No tickets are necessary for these free events, but seating is limited. The lobby opens at 6pm, and doors to the Theatre open at 6:30pm for general admission seating. Berkeley Rep donors at the Friend level or higher ($75+) enjoy reserved seating. For more information about Page to Stage or how to become a donor, call 510 647–2906.
Teen Night gives local teens the opportunity to meet for dinner and a behind-the-scenes discussion with a member of the artistic team before attending each subscription-season production at an extremely discounted price.
- Friday, October 17, 2014
Past Teen Night guests have included: Tony Taccone, Berkeley Rep’s Michael Leibert Artistic Director; Ray Garcia and Salvatore Vassallo, dancers in Rita Moreno: Life Without Makeup; and Michael Suenkel, Berkeley Rep’s production stage manager.