By Rolinda Espinoza
Theater students at Riverside City College are continuing to showcase their artform despite COVID-19, most recently telling an eye-opening tale about the realities of being Black in America.
RCC Theatre live streamed a performance of “Kill Move Paradise” on Nov. 6.
The play follows four young African American men whose lives have just ended. The four characters, Isa, Griff, Daz and Tiny are confronted with the harsh reality that they died as a result of social injustice and discrimination.
To transfer to the afterlife, the group must come to terms with the experiences they faced in their past life.
The group leader Isa first meets soon-to-be father Griff. Shortly after, the duo becomes a trio when they meet Daz. To round out the group, Tiny, who is noticeably smaller and younger than the rest of the group enters the picture.
Tiny is first amused by the idea of “America” until he realizes he had been shot while playing in the park with his friends.
His realization is a turning point in the play where the sweet and innocent boy becomes angry with the country that failed him.
“There are many things viewers of the show should take away,” Jessie Nganga, the actor who portrayed Tiny’s character said. “The first being the fact that for multiple years on end, African Americans have been viewed by America as a form of entertainment, whether it is through athletes or throughout the film industry.”
The audience plays an interactive role throughout the play and represents “America.” They are made to observe and judge the four men.
“Viewers of this play should realize how horrible the perceptions of America have been towards the African American people and those of different cultures,” Nganga said.
The cast and crew faced a series of complications during production because of the COVID-19 pandemic and accompanying social restrictions. Live performance is not currently an option, so the show was adapted and presented as a readthrough of the original play.
“COVID-19 has impacted many of us, both through big and small situations alike,” Nganga said. “The fact that I cannot be in-person to perform hands down one of the most powerful plays I’ve done so far hurts.”
Like many of us during the COVID-19 pandemic, the cast battled uncertain and inconsistent Wi-Fi connections.
The full show was recorded in one take despite the chance of technical difficulties. Even without these issues, there are other anticipated challenges that accompany live performances.
“I would say that the biggest issue was being at the mercy of Zoom and people’s internet connection,” said Ali Muhammad, who portrayed Isa.
The cast worked around these obstacles and the performance ran smoothly, allowing the performers to deliver an incredible show.
The cast of “Kill Move Paradise” wanted the audience to know that it’s okay to be uncomfortable and question authority.
“There is a line I have in the show where I say, ‘dead men don’t protest’ and I want the audience to connect with the struggle of the characters and be inspired to do something,” Muhammad said.
RCC Theatre is offering two additional productions this month that touch on social justice. “A Mans world,” by Rachel Crothers, will be performed Nov. 13 at 7 p.m. The show is set in the home of a New York artist based on writer Frank Ware. The play touches on double standards between men and women.
“Blood at the Root,” by Dominique Morisseau, is based on the Jena Six and will take place Nov. 20 at 7 p.m.
All shows will be live streamed on the RCC Theater Facebook page.