For DigBoston, I recently previewed “Detroit Red,” a “theatrical exploration of the life of Malcolm X as he dwelled and came of age in the Roxbury section of Boston,” which is making its world premiere at Boston’s Emerson Paramount Center Robert J. Orchard Stage from Feb. 1 to 16, 2020:
In December 1945 and January 1946, Malcolm X and accomplices burglarized homes in Brookline, Newton, Arlington, Belmont, and Milton. The end of his crime spree came that January in a Roxbury jewelry shop where he’d left a stolen watch for repair. The man who would become the incandescent civil rights leader and evangelist for the Nation of Islam was then just 18.
“The owner of the watch had alerted all the jewelry shops in Boston to be on the lookout for this watch,” says Will Power, author of the play “Detroit Red,” a “theatrical exploration of the life of Malcolm X as he dwelled and came of age in the Roxbury section of Boston.”
“He goes into the jewelry shop to retrieve the watch and the cop comes out of the back,” Power says. Just then, another man enters the store and the policeman turns to the newcomer. “Malcolm realized in his mind: I could take out my gun and shoot this guy in the back.”
“Detroit Red” begins with video reenacting the scene. “My whole play takes place in that split second,” Power says, “when Malcolm has to decide whether to shoot the cop or give the gun over.”
The video freezes and the live cast comes out—Eric Berryman as Detroit Red (Malcolm X’s 1940’s nickname) plus Edwin Lee Gibson and Brontë England-Nelson.
Under the direction of Lee Sunday Evans, scenes are intended to flow like memories through Malcolm X’s adventures in early 1940s Boston, to New York from 1942 to ’44, then Boston again.
“It’s a theater piece,” Power says, “that goes to all these heightened moments when he’s trying to figure out who he is.”
* * * * * * *
“A lot of people in Boston don’t associate Malcolm X with being a Boston figure. They don’t claim him,” Power says. “Let’s rediscover our own heroes and reclaim them and understand the complexities of who they were.”
In his autobiography, Malcolm X said of his time in Boston, “No physical move in my life has been more pivotal or profound in its repercussions.”
Read the rest here.
If this is the kind of coverage of arts, cultures and activisms you appreciate, please support Wonderland by contributing to Wonderland on Patreon. And sign up for our free, weekly newsletter so that you don’t miss any of our reporting.