Residents of West Philadelphia were treated to an evening of live performances during a production of Theatre in the X which performed three short plays at Malcolm X Memorial Park, 51st and Pine streets Sunday.
Visitors filled the seats beneath the canopy at the center of the park as well as the surrounding benches in order to watch the actors perform.
Carlo Campbell is co-producer of Theatre in the X and described the experience as amazing.
“You put so much into it and then you just hope that it’s received. Honestly I think we did a good job of being received, I think we did a good job of telling those stories in a way that they can be received and be emotionally ready to deal with it,” said Campbell.
The performers at Theatre in the X perform their craft, not on a stage, but in the midst of the community’s activities. There are no barriers separating them from the people attending the event. Despite the roar of motorcycles and cars passing in the streets, the raucous laughter and excited screams of children playing in the playground area, the actors continued performing, never missing a beat.
“I tell you, it’s not for sissies,” said Campbell.
“It’s as challenging as any artist will ever do in their medium and it serves to remind these artists as they go forward that everything that happens afterward is a piece of cake,” he said.
LaNeshe Miller-White described the evening as three hours of theater by and for the people.
“It was a magical experience for the audience. Our mission is to provide quality art experiences for the people of West Philadelphia and the Black community at large and to provide opportunities for actors and creators of color,” said Miller-White.
This was the third year of Theatre in the X’s performances at the park and was not their only production there which lasted three hours in length. Last year the company performed a Shakespearean play which also lasted some three hours in duration.
Actress and broadcast personality Tiffany Bacon performed in the production of the play “Love Queens.”
“It takes a lot of concentration and you just have to focus when things are going on. It’s community theater so things are going to happen and you just have to stay in the scene,” said Bacon when asked about performing in the midst of lots of external activity.
Bacon said that this was her first time performing with Theatre in the X but had complimentary things to say about her experience.
“I think [people enjoy] what they’re doing and, people, please support it so they can continue doing what they are doing,” she said.
Walter Deshields, played the role of Martin Luther King Jr. in the production of “The Meeting.”
“We just go straight through the Black experience with some history and some current events; it’s all relevant,” said DeShields about the performance of the three productions.
DeShields said that he wasn’t confident when Theatre in the X first began at Malcom X Memorial Park that people would come out to view the plays.
“I was blown away,” he said.
“We did Othello last year and it ran three hours and not one person moved, they stayed and it was great. It’s just so exciting to see it here in West Philadelphia, in this particular neighborhood.”
The productions included “New Black Math” by Suzan-Lori Parks, “The Meeting” by Jeff Stetson and “Love, Queens Who Suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder” by Heather Thomas and Jamila Capitman.
The three plays will be performed again at Malcolm X Memorial Park on Saturday at 3 p.m. and Aug. 21 at 6 p.m. Performances are free to the public.