Stephen Sachs‘ award-winning stage adaptation of Claudia Rankine’s Citizen: An American Lyric, created, developed and produced last year at the Fountain Theatre, opens tonight at the Pure Theatre in Charleston, S.C. The play about racism in America will be performed as the city marks the one-year commemoration of the tragic shooting at Mother Emanuel Church. The Pure Theatre is located just four blocks from the church.
In the aftermath of the shooting last June, Pure Theatre artistic director Sharon Graci was searching how to use theatre to express the grief and rage of the community. Sachs’ adaptation of Citizen was brought to her attention by one of the cast members of the Fountain Theatre production, Bernard K. Addison, a South Carolina native who knew someone who knew Graci. Once Graci read the script, she knew she had found what she was looking for.
“We are a nation in crisis,” says Graci. “And our communities are infected with both macro and micro aggressions against persons of color, and until we make a conscious decision to acknowledge the reality of this, we will not engage in meaningful dialogue, we will not change the status quo. We will remain a fractured society eating itself alive from the inside.”
Highlighted as Critic’s Choice and hailed “powerful” in the Los Angeles Times, the Fountain’s 2015 world premiere earned national attention and critical acclaim in an extended run. Sachs’ script won the Stage Raw Award for Best Adaptation.
Directed by Shirley Jo Finney — who also helmed the world premiere at the Fountain — Citizen at Pure Theatre is an event of the Piccolo Spoleto Festival, Charleston’s 17-day annual celebration of the arts. Citizen runs June 3 – 10.