Photo courtesy of Tony Funchess

On Sunday, April 10th, a group of men of color attended the matinee of Blue Door and then had a private discussion, led by community activist Tony Funchess, in the rehearsal hall following the play. Below are Mr. Funchess’ thoughts on that discussion and Blue Door.

We all have a story to tell! The story that men tell in public, a story of confidence, strength, assuredness is not always the story they keep locked within. Lewis, the reflection of so many men of color allows us the ability to cross the chasm that exist between the full “dimensionality” of being a man, and a man of color. As we sit in the theater we are transformed into the role of primary in our own narrative as we each assume a role and identity of Lewis’ as he is visited by his ancestors on his reflective journey into his past; the road map to defining and finding himself.

This journey of introspection and liberation is not one easily taken. As the men who showed up for this experience of watching Blue Door and the post post-show discussion that took place for men of color, expressed behind closed doors. This experience of having an affinity space; a space solely for men of color, became a transformative space. Guards down, titles set aside, and brotherhood established we discussed our experiences with American theater, predominantly white spaces, and our commonalty in struggle as men of color, as well as our shared desire for liberation.

As we reflected on Lewis’ journey we discussed the recent scientific discovery of genetic memory of experiencing encoded into our DNA, the impacts of Mass Incarceration, the historical fairy tale of the black man as rapist, and our own journey’s that brought us into this circle. These men who had traveled from as far as Texas, and southern Oregon to be in this room expressed their deep need for spaces like these were the truth of our strength, and frailty can be discussed without damage to our external images.

The insomnia of Tanya Barfield’s Blue Door is the waking nightmare that many men of color experience in silence. Conditioned by society to “man up” we are often denied the opportunity to “let our hair down” and just be. As men of color there is this ever present awareness of our own presence in a room and the recognition of the multiplicity of thoughts and judgements about our presence in that room. Well thanks to Profile Theater this time the room was just ours. It was a room of breathing; exhaling the frustration of societal pressures to live up to ideologies often foreign to our internal design and historical make-up, and inhaling; the friendship, brotherhood, and healing of transparency in expression without pretense.

This room was our Blue Door the symbol of locking the evil of this world out and keeping the harmony of self and family in throughout eternity. This process of shared existence and experience is one that we must all approach in our own time and in our own way. Thanks to the intentional directorial approach to this piece, Bobby Bermea focuses with laser precision, a moon beam for us to follow out of the dark night of hidden history and identity and into the liberated space of fullness as men of color. Undeniably a need story to be told and experience to be had.

-Tony Funchess