Peralta Community College District's Only Student-Run Publication
Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

    ‘Party People’ evokes ’60s power trip

    The first thing you see when you walk in the door of the Berkeley Rep is a wall featuring the bold-colored and evocative prints of posters by the legendary Black Panther artist Emory Douglas, and black-and-white photographs of Panthers and Young Lords from the ’70s. 
    At the opening on Friday, Oct. 24, glimpses could be caught of a smiling Douglas as he chatted with other theater-goers in the foyer of the Rep: this production in fact attracted many members of that generation, apparently intrigued by a younger take on those revolutionary days, the graying heads of many Boomers populated the majority of opening night’s seats.
    Based on the extended standing ovation at the end of the play, they were not disappointed. What UNIVERSES 
    (the theater group from New York which masterminded the play) has done is pull all the files on the Black Panthers and Young Lords and construct a world where two young performance artists — children of Panthers and Lords — organize an event which in effect creates a combination Panther-Lord reunion among their older family members and friends, and accidentally-on-purpose ripping open old wounds among their political progenitors using
    video, poetry, and a couple of embarrassing/profound performance pieces. In effect, the young artists succeed in turning the former revolutionaries of their parents’ generation into characters in a play about themselves, a play inside a play. The work is based on extensive interviews with members of the two revolutionary parties and is the product of a truly impressive quantity of research.
    For those who know little or nothing about the Lords and Panthers, the first section of the play is in essence a super-accelerated musical crash course in their histories, from oppression, hunger, insufficient housing, and mounting garbage to resistance to organization and community service. For the uninitiated, it could easily be overwhelming or confusing, and key concepts and facts could be lost in the intensity. Visually and auditively, however, it is fascinating, switching musical styles, costumes, and choreographic mood at a fast clip.
    We are led into the lives of former Panthers and Lords and members of their children’s generation, into the frictions that arise between their approaches to injustice and their perceptions of the past. 
    The young men in question, Malik (Christopher Livingston) and Jimmy (William Ruiz, AKA Ninja), confront that past through their videotaped interviews with the former revolutionaries, and dig up the trauma hidden amongst the glorious and hopeful days of the late ’60s: from COINTELPRO and FBI infiltration and sabotage to torture and forced confessions to drug addiction to the DEA to feminism and machista backlash to more-or-less dissolution. Long-buried grudges and painful memories are brought to bear.
    These aspects of the movements are so rarely discussed, it is almost taboo. But to bring them up is to inform and enlighten a new generation of activists. What could have been done differently? What could have allowed these movements to succeed and rise above the brutality and the obstacles the state brought down upon them? 
    In later scenes, the “activism” of the Millennial generation comes under the microscope, as the “…then click ‘Share’” philosophy of revolution is cross-examined by the elders present. 
    The clashing and collaborating of generations so vastly different is enough to make any Millennial think they aren’t
    doing enough to fight the systemic oppression which remains alive and well in our society. It is an inspiring show and gets high marks from this humble reviewer.
    “Party People” runs through Nov. 23rd at the Berkeley Repertory Theater on Addison Street near Shattuck in Berkeley. Ticket discounts are available not only to students ($10 off), but also to military personnel (20% off) and anyone under 30 (½ price). Full price tickets range from $35-$87.

    About the Contributor
    In the fall of 2019, The Laney Tower rebranded as The Citizen and launched a new website. These stories were ported over from the old Laney Tower website, but byline metadata was lost in the port. However, many of these stories credit the authors in the text of the story. Some articles may also suffer from formatting issues. Future archival efforts may fix these issues.  
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