BY DWANDRA LAMPKIN, DIRECTOR
The story that inspired NO. 6 is regretfully, but not surprisingly, familiar. The play is set in 2001 following the murder of 19-year old Timothy Thomas, an unarmed black man in Cincinnati, Ohio. Timothy lost his life at the hands of a policemen who perceived that he was reaching for a gun; but in reality, Timothy was merely pulling up his pants. While this particular story focuses on the events that took place twenty years ago, it eerily resembles what also took place 65 years ago with the lynching of Emmett Till, three years ago with Botham Jean, ten months ago with the senseless murder of Breonna Taylor, and eight months ago with the asphyxiation of George Floyd.
The impact of “injustice fatigue” is permeating, forming a thick cloud of dust—choking its victims, blinding bystanders, and creating an escape hatch for the perpetrators. As artists, we have a responsibility to bring things to light. It is our job to raise awareness, to provoke conversation—to lean into the pain, but be courageous enough to go against the grain. As we work towards “shifting” our narrative as people of color, it is important that we continue to tell stories that acknowledge our history--the good, the bad, and the ugly. NO. 6 provides us the opportunity to acknowledge the black and brown people who have lost their lives to police brutality, while simultaneously creating a space for us to reflect, re-examine, and recalibrate.
In light of current events, it is my hope that audiences will allow their anger, frustration, and confusion to shape their experience as they bear witness to this play. You must be willing to go through it to get to it.
by T.J. Young, Playwright of NO. 6
I wish this play didn’t feel relevant. In all honesty, I wish that this work of drama steeped in historical fact was now an antiquated piece of art that could only live as a way to study a moment in time. A brief moment. Sadly, that isn’t the case. In the past year, we as an American people have been tried and tested on multiple levels. While we were at home, attempting to avoid an illness that has stuck around longer than any of us anticipated, another sickness that has been embedded in the fabric of this country was brought to light.
But this is not the first time these atrocities have been made public.
The thing that pulled me to this story is how it is both about the past and about the time in which I wrote it. This play was my reaction to the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis. In 2014, the nation was at a tipping point. At least that is how it felt. There were marches held, songs written, news stories, documentaries, think pieces, and yet … it happened again. And again. And again. And it kept happening. It still happens. But why? Why are we stuck in this seemingly endless loop of death and pain?
These are the questions that we keep asking and, I hope, we are trying to get deep and meaningful answers to. There is a renewed cry for social justice and empathy at a level that feels unprecedented. People across the globe take to streets and cry “never again.” And then it happens again. And again. And again.
This play is still relevant because we have yet to find answers to the questions that are plaguing us. This play doesn’t offer any answers. But it will, I sincerely believe, open us up to have the conversations that are needed to filter out whatever bile is in the waters of our nation. Even that seems to be a task too Herculean for one simple production. Still, it can serve as a start. Or, better yet, a continuation of conversations I hope everyone is having.
For those of you who see this story and see yourself: know I am hurting, and I cry with you. For those who do not relate: I ask that you open your heart and attempt to. Let’s not let this be the same as before. Let’s make this play antiquated.
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