by Beverly Aarons
Don’t Call it a Riot! a stage play written and directed by Seattle playwright Amontaine Aurore premieres May 11, 2018 at 18th and Union and runs through May 20, 2018. The play is set in 1968, taking place against a backdrop of civil unrest we follow the life of Reed, a member of the Seattle Black Panther Party as she struggles with impending motherhood while fighting for Black liberation.
Don’t Call it a Riot! opened to a packed theatre, every seat filled as the audience eagerly awaited a glimpse into the personal struggles and triumphs of a young, pregnant Black Panther Party member. But Don’t Call it a Riot! delivers more than just a glimpse into a young black woman’s life, it contextualizes the Black American experience in radical politics, especially in Seattle.
Founded in 1968, the Seattle Black Panther Party was just one wave in a tsunami of radical resistance spreading across America as many Black Americans became frustrated with the slow, stagnating change of their condition. The Black Panther Party offered a radical path to liberation, combining armed resistance with practical and direct aid to Black communities that were underserved in every sector of civil society from health to education. Don’t Call it a Riot! offers the audience a glimpse into what “the personal is political” really means and how it played out in the life of Reed, a young and optimistic Black Panther Party member from the 1960s to the 1990s.
Amountaine Aurore’s play delivers an emotionally charged story that is heavy on themes of love, betrayal, the ignorance and arrogance of youth, and the importance of joy even when faced with the cruelty of an oppressive society. The conflict between the personal and the political is explored with expert precision while remaining authentic and believable. And the stresses and personal costs of sustaining long-term social activism is honestly revealed as Don’t Call it a Riot! transports us across two generations of resistance and struggle for change.
Aurore’s storytelling never falls short on depth and passion but there is a longing for more as the story ends without giving the audience a present-day update on the Reed story. However, the story did offer ample room for audience introspection about how to engage in political struggle while living the joyful lives all human beings deserve.
The Don’t Call it a Riot! story is enhanced by the simple staging that accurately reflects the era depicted, and the songs of resistance and Black pride punctuate every scene transition. And last but not least, Don’t Call it a Riot! actors make it easy to emotionally connect to and care about all the characters that graced the stage. Don’t Call it a Riot! is definitely a must-see for anyone who wants to have an authentic glimpse into the life of a Black Panther Party member and get a true understanding of what it means to make the personal political.
For more information about Don’t Call it a Riot! visit TenAuras.com
Featured image by Donna Day