Published in 1952, the book follows the life of a nameless black man who has made his home inside a Harlem basement illuminated by more than 1,300 light bulbs. The story recounts his journey from a black college in the south to New York City, where he is thrust into the difficult landscape of Northern race relations. Trying to make sense of his life and position in American society, the narrator emerges from his experiences disillusioned – and quite possibly a little insane – but alive.
“I think the novel would interest audiences anywhere. But I do have to say that doing a play about race in America in the nation’s capital during the run-up to this year’s elections is hugely exciting,” says the Studio Theatre’s artistic director, David Muse.
Bougere has worked on Broadway (“A Raisin in the Sun,” “The Tempest”) and Off-Broadway (“Macbeth,” “Antony and Cleopatra”), appeared in over 30 productions as a member of D.C.’s Arena Stage and scored roles in television (“Law & Order,” “The Cosby Show”) and film (“The Pelican Brief,” “Two Weeks Notice”).
The novel is lengthy, forcing Jacoby to skim over some parts, but the Ellison estate insisted that key portions of the story line be followed closely.
According to Muse, this is the largest play the Studio Theatre has produced, with 10 actors, over 60 costumes and “projections so complicated that they take a week just to program into the computers.”
“But it’s a play with great language, expressive design and powerhouse performances, so in that sense it feels right up Studio’s alley,” says Muse.
Lauren McEwen is a contributor to The RootDC.
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