Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School for Music and Art and Performing Arts
The majority of my playgoing experience has been to see the flashy, big-budget musicals of Broadway. I was hesitant to venture into a smaller Off-Broadway experimental theatre. But April Yvette Thompson's one-woman show Liberty City
, about race conflict in Miami in the 1980s, was nothing like what I expected.Liberty City
is not an over-dramatized cry for justice but rather the poignant story of a young girl growing up in a poor Miami neighborhood influenced by the chaos created by the racial tensions around her.
is not a play about racism, though, but play about the ability of African-Americans to survive. When she was six, Thompson visited the island of Barbados with her family. Thompson's father shows her a pair of shackles to teach her about where she comes from. He tells her the story of her ancestors, who were chained down to the rocks and made to sit in the hot sun for days; those who survived moved on to live in America. This idea of survival, her father explains, means that her family were all warriors--warriors of peace. This story shows her why it is important to keep her origins alive.
When her family begins to crumble due to the pressure of racial tensions in Liberty City, Miami, her parents divide, pulling April and her brother in two different directions. Even as they are taught to discuss and think before fighting, April and her brother are told that they are warriors. The instinct for battle runs deep in their blood, and it comes to a head when race riots break out.
Writer/performer Thompson, along with writer/director Jessica Blank, used a documentary-like technique to create Liberty City
, taking transcripts of their conversations about Thompson's childhood. A script was then created from these tapes. As a performer, Thompson has perfected the art of the solo show, giving a captivating performance as her friends, family members, and even herself at age five.
Throughout the play, Thompson's family life is the main source of drama, and the racial tensions of the city become the background and context for her personal story. She ties the performance together by ending the play back on Barbados, where she first accepted her roots completely.
is a moving, true-to-life commentary on the perseverance of black Americans, the value of family bonds, and what it really means to survive.
Click here for more information about Liberty City.