Ebony & Johnny lights up West Oakland

October 12, 2007

Urban Romeo and Juliet adaptation explores violence, classism and relationships

Put in a little Shakespeare, plus some Bay Area slang, and critical sociological analysis of Oakland’s Black community, and what do you get?

“Ebony & Johnny: A Hood Tale” is just that; a hood tale. Now, don’t let your stereotypes of the hood cloud your thinking and assume that this is some low-budget “I’m ‘Bout it” or something like that.

Ebony & Johnny explores a variety of issues affecting the Oakland through the experiences of two hood-crossed lovers. Creatively engaging both Shakesperean English with Oakland Ebonics, the plays language forces the audience to broaden its understanding of human dynamics and relationships amongst people.

Ebony moved to the hills while Johnny lives in the flatlands. Their families don’t get along for a variety of reasons.

There is an underriding theme of classism amongst the Black community in the play which makes one question, “What is Black?” Do you have to be in poverty to be Black? Do you have to act ignorant to keep it real?

The urban adaption of Romeo and Juliet featured a few faces familiar around Laney
BSU Member Ernie Rocker, aka DJ Ego, starred as Paris while President Davis played Benvolio. Tybalt was played by Antonio "Dalaylo" Butler while the Tatiana Monet was featured as Ebony. Former Laney student Siraj Fowler plays opposite Tatiana as Johnny.

The Lower Bottoms Playas performance was under the direction of Ayodele “Wordslanger” Nzinga, MA, MFA. Wordslanger is a renounced writer and spoken word artist, and also wrote “Mack” a “gangster tale.”

Wordslanger told the tale of so many people’s odyssey from the hood to the hills and the challenge to “keep it real.”

Wordslanger’s cast gives a heartwrenching performance showing the futility of urban violence. Black-on-Black violence reveals its hateful face and the audience is moved to reach out to prevent the senseless murder of human beings. We can stop our community from losing more Ebony’s and Johnnys to violence on the streets of Oakland.

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