San Diego’s premiere Black theatre “Common Ground” announces 2020-21 season

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Playwright Cris Eli Blak reacts to the rehearsals of his plays in Common Ground Theatre's free, world premiere play reading series, “Uplifting Black Voices.” Up next is “This is Low” in January, about a teenager navigating mental health issues.

Season Features World Premiere “Uplifting Black Voices” Play Readings, Holiday Jubilee, Outdoor Performances, in Partnership with Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation

SAN DIEGO – San Diego’s premiere Black theatre, Common Ground Theatre, is proud to announce its 2020-21 season, filled with virtual and outdoor performances around the theme of “Raising Our Consciousness to a Higher Level.” In partnership with Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation, Common Ground Theatre’s season seeks to provide a “common ground” for people of all ages, cultures and backgrounds to participate, interact, connect and share their love of theatre.

“Now is the time to discuss and think about things from different points of view,” said Common Ground Theatre Executive Artistic Director Yolanda Franklin. “This year’s season was put together with the concept that the African American/Black experience is different for everyone and all those stories are worth telling. We are sharing as many stories as we can this year, including through our free premiere play reading series, so that everyone has a chance to take part.”

“Common Ground Theatre is one of Southeastern San Diego’s jewels. Its focus on presenting work reflective of the African American experience is important. We have partnered with Common Ground to help increase its visibility in our community, and across the San Diego region,” added Jacobs Center President and CEO Reginald Jones. “Uplifting the assets of our community is critical to our mission. Common Ground Theatre has a rich history in Southeastern San Diego worthy of recognition beyond its community base.”

The initial season lineup includes:

“Uplifting Black Voices” – A Free, World Premiere 7-Part Digital Reading Series 

Every month from December through June, Common Ground Theatre will highlight Black voices through short play readings by Black playwrights from San Diego and around the United States. All readings are free via Zoom, with donations appreciated. Sign up at commongroundtheatre.com. The first two months include:

December – Black Men’s Edition, Vol. 1, 2 & 3
Saturday, Dec. 5 at 4 p.m.: In “Speaking Truth to Power,” by Robert Alexander, three longtime roommates have difficult conversations on race, class, police brutality and white privilege. The play is meant to keep the conversation going over the racial divide in the Divided States of America.  

Sunday, Dec. 6 at 4 p.m.: In two plays by Cris Eli Blak, audiences will first hear “BOY,” a play where a young man must have the most honest and raw conversation of his life with his strong-willed father. It is a conversation that neither expected, and a resolution that is even more unexpected. In “Burden of Proof” a high school teacher who works with inner city kids must face his wife’s decision to defend a white supremacist.  The couple must navigate what the right thing to do is and what it means to live in a country where the truth is hardest to find.

Saturday, Dec. 19 at 3 p.m.: Enjoy encore performances of all three play readings above!

January – Mental Health Edition
Saturday, Jan. 23 & Sunday, Jan. 24, 2021 at 4 p.m.: In “This is a Low,” by Cris Eli Blak, an African American teenager, Jude, with the help of a social worker named Mister, comes to terms with his emotions and actions. Jude learns over the course of the play that it doesn’t matter who you are, what you are or where you come from, it is okay to not always be okay.

“Day of Absence” by Douglas Turner Ward – Black History Celebration*
February 6, 7, 13 & 14, 2021 at 4 p.m.
In honor of Black History Month, Common Ground Theatre will produce an outdoor production of “Day of Absence,” winner of the coveted Vernon Rice and Obie Awards. This clever and enormously amusing satire is described by the author as “A Reverse Minstrel Show.” Here the cast, made up in white face, recount the uproarious emergencies that occur when a Deep Southern town is faced with the sudden and inexplicable disappearance of all its Black citizens. The New York Times wrote, “Laughter can be as effective as anger in telling white America what playwright [Douglas Turner Ward] has on his mind.” The show is scheduled to run at Jacobs Center’s Market Creek Amphitheater. Tickets will be $25 general admission, $35 VIP and registration will be posted once available at commongroundtheatre.com.

“Benevolence” by Ifa Bayeza* 
April 17, 18, 24 & 25 at 4 p.m. 
A small, segregated town is about to be turned upside down as fate brings a young boy from Chicago to a candy counter in Money, Mississippi. The second play in Ifa Bayeza’s powerful trilogy about Emmett Till, Benevolence is a haunting, unforgettable portrait of the collateral damage surrounding a case that gained international attention and sparked the Civil Rights Movement. Tickets for this outdoor production at Jacobs Center’s Market Creek Amphitheater will be $25 general admission, $35 VIP, and registration will be posted once available at commongroundtheatre.com.

“Little Rock” by Rajendra Ramoon Maharaj – Juneteeth Celebration
June 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27 & 30; July 1-4, time TBD
Common Ground is bringing back an audience favorite, which was unfortunately shut down early in 2020 due to COVID-19. “History called it heroism. They called it high school.” – “Little Rock” tells the riveting true story of the “Little Rock Nine,” the first Black students to attend their city’s formerly segregated Central High School. What began as their quest for a better education soon became a national crisis, igniting the passions of a divided country and sparking a historic fight for justice in the Jim Crow South. Tickets for this outdoor play at Jacobs Center’s Market Creek Amphitheater will be $25 general admission, $35 VIP, and registration will be posted once available at commongroundtheatre.com.

*Note: Outdoor performances are pending government regulations at the time of production. As needed, alternate viewing arrangements will be announced at commongroundtheatre.com. 

Common Ground Theatre’s mission is “to produce classics and new works by and about people of African descent that entertain, educate and connect with audiences of all ages, cultures and backgrounds.” As the premier San Diego Black theatre, the theatre’s aim is to produce high quality theatrical productions that provide a “common ground” for all to participate, interact, connect and share their love of theatre. Learn more at commongroundtheatre.com and follow us on Facebook.

Founded in 1995, the Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation is focused on building communities and lifting lives. As a creative catalyst and incubator, the Jacobs Center works with the community to revitalize Southeastern San Diego’s Diamond Neighborhoods. This means transforming nearly 60 acres into sustainable developments that provide residents with greater access to resources and amenities that improve their quality of life. Additionally, the Jacobs Center works with community organizations and partners to increase residents’ economic opportunities, leadership skills and educational success.

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