Race & Ethnicity

Two Views of Race On The Boston Stage

By Jared Bowen   |   Friday, January 21, 2011
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Front: Tory Bullock (Jim), Lori Tishfield (Melody)
Back: Johnny Lee Davenport (Richard)


One takes us to a place rarely visited in theater and the other beyond where we usually go, it's the Huntington Theatre's Ruined and Company One's Neighbors

Winner of the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for drama, Ruined takes place in the Democratic Republic of Congo at Mama Nadi's bar and brothel, a nexus for all things social, political, and sometimes evil. The title references the horrible sexual mutilation of women in a Republic notorious for rape. These women's identities are often secondary to their sexual servitude.

It all comes together in a single line towards the end, "Men can do better," which encapsulates the destruction of life caused by the world's exploitation of this region, and the men's exploitation of these women. 

Theater critic Terry Bryne praises the play's compelling subject matter, with some reservations.

"There is so much explanation and exposition of who is doing what to whom, that I got lost from the central love story that's really at the heart of it," says Bryne.

Ruined is playing at the Huntington Theatre Company's B.U. Theater.

Over at the Boston Center for the Arts, Company One is courting controversy with its production of Neighbors. The multi-racial Patterson family must reconsider their values when the Coon family of actors move next door. With names like Mammy, Zip, and Sambo Coon, they always perform in black face and their performances are provocative to say the least. 

It all works because it engages in a conversation about these stereotypes by illustrating all the things that, even if not said out loud, are still thought in America. 

"There are wonderful moments when you laugh at something, and think to yourself, was that really funny? I really loved that it put you out on the edge," says Bryne. 

"But, I think the playwright wrote himself into a corner. The end wraps up a little too neatly. It couldn't complete the sentence," says Bryne. 

As for the controversy Neighbors has sparked in other parts of the country?

"I think we are really lucky to have a director in Summer Williams. He handles it so beautifully, and there was never a moment when I thought the actors were anything but transparent. They were all right there, willing to go for it," says Bryne. 

Ruined
Jan 4-Feb 6
B.U. Theatre
Tickets >

Neighbors
Jan 14-Feb 5
Boston Center for the Arts
Tickets >

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María Hinojosa is a journalist and author as well as the managing editor and host of public radio's Latino USA

Throughout her career, Hinojosa has garnered many awards and honors. Since 1995, Hispanic Business Magazine has named her one of the 100 most influential Latinos in the United States three times.

In 1991, Hinojosa won an Associated Press award for her coverage of Nelson Mandela for WNYC Radio. That same year, she won a Unity Award and the Top Story of the Year Award from the National Association of Hispanic Journalists for her NPR story Crews, about New York gang members. The NPR story evolved into the book Crews: Gang Members Talk to María Hinojosa.

She received both the National Association of Hispanic Journalists Radio Award and the New York Society of Professional Journalists Deadline Award for her NPR report Kids and Guns. For Manhood Behind Bars, a story for NPR that documented how incarceration has become a right of passage for men of all races, Hinojosa received the Robert F. Kennedy Award. She was inducted into the "She Made It" Hall of Fame of Women in Media. She is the author of the book Raising Raúl.

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About the Author
Jared Bowen Jared Bowen
Jared Bowen is WGBH’s Emmy Award-winning Executive Editor and Host for Arts. 

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