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Written by Will Manus


Towne Street Theater, L.A.’s leading African-American theater company, has celebrated its 21st anniversary by mounting the world premiere of Barbara White Morgan’s powerful social drama, 1969. The choice of title is significant, as it was in the late 60s that the Black liberation movement in the USA began to come apart after a decade of successful rebellion against the white power structure, led by such figures as Malcolm X, Elijah Muhammad, Eldridge Cleaver and Huey Newton.


In Morgan’s play, Ajamu (Jaimyon Parker), is just such a leader, head of the Blacks United movement in an unnamed American city. But he and his equally militant sidekick, Lewis (Lamar Usher), have been under attack by various establishment forces—police, FBI, local politicians—who are determined to crush BU’s rebellion against the system. (Shades of the Black Panther story.) Also in opposition to Ajamu is a successful Black-American businessman, Ernest Butler (Kenny Cooper), who wants to buy BU’s headquarters and turn it into a community center. Ajamu sees Ernest as a kind of Uncle Tom, currying favor with Whitey by helping to deprive BU of its home base. There is a further complication: Grace Butler (Meagan Weaver), Ernest’s wife, is a former girlfriend of Ajamu’s.


The clash of personal and historical forces, and, above all, values, is what 1969 is all about. Morgan builds her drama slowly but skillfully, going deeper and deeper into character at every step of the way, so that by the time the play’s explosive climax is reached, we know Grace and Ajamu very well and care deeply about their fate. Morgan’s play takes place on Nathaniel Bellamy’s sumptuous set, and it is acted by a skilled ensemble. Kudos to them and to director Kim Harrington.

Kenny Cooper, Megan Weaver and Jaimyon Parker

The Dance Begins When the Waltz Goes Backwards

1995 Towne Street Theatre production of
"The Waltz Begins When the Dance Goes Backward."


The Downtown News

Written by Victoria Looseleaf 


Barbara White Morgan's play ("The Waltz Begins When the Dance Goes Backward") addresses some somber contemporary issues: homelessness, race relations, and material greed. What begins as a sermon for the plight of the homeless transforms into a surreal probe into the disintegration of a guilty man's conscience.


Richard Porter (Biff Yeager) us a white screenwriter whose career, over-indulgent lifestyle, and twisted morals come to a screeching halt when he encounters an eccentric, African-American homeless man named Everybum (Sy Richardson). Everybum is literally a walking newspaper — his clothes are made of cut-out news clippings, and his memory is a haphazard collection of the stories on his sleeves.


At first, Everybum appears to be just another schizophrenic on the streets of downtown L.A. However, Everybum seems to know the deepest secrets of Porter's failed life and becomes a catalyst for Porter's breakdown. It is never clear whether Everybum is a flesh-and-blood person, or a phantasmagoric figment of Porter's haunting conscience — and that ambiguity is what makes the play so compelling.

An American Tract

“An American tract might be recognized as a viable addition to the literature on modern race relations." - Dramalogue
“Barbara Morgan has written an unusual play about the black experience in America." - Garden Valley News
“There are some wonderful moments to hang on to. Morgan's writing plays particularly well with the young actors." - Backstage West

Produced and directed by Richard Elkins (2010)

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