The Colored Museum

On the Radar

Thurs. Nov. 3 - Sat. Nov. 5. 8:30 p.m. Agassiz Theatre. Tickets available at the Harvard Box Office or at the door, $7.

Campus promotions for “The Colored Museum” warn that, “There comes a time when we must stop hurting and start laughing, even if it is uncomfortable.” But when it opened in 1986, George C. Wolfe’s “The Colored Museum” was rarely received with just laughter or tears. In fact, the controversial play of 11 vignettes was even labeled “anti-black” by some during its initial production.

The vignettes may be understandably mislabeled as callous, since they boldly tackle sensitive issues, presenting a brutally satirical view of what Director Kia D. Alexander ’08 calls “black oppression stereotypes through time.”

Featuring a colorful cast of characters ranging from a perky and saucy black flight attendant to a feisty drag queen character, the darkly comic “The Colored Museum” manages to crawl under the skin of viewers. There is no escaping the implications of its message.

Even Jon E. Gentry ’07, Co-President of BlackCAST, admits that he first read the play years ago in high school but the words stuck with him. When determining the BlackCAST season this year, he immediately jumped at the opportunity to present “The Colored Museum” to Harvard audiences because it is “something that has been with me since I arrived.”

Gentry says the work was chosen with the deliberately chosen to “shock and enlighten” viewers, and to continue the long-running aim of BlackCAST productions to “open people’s eyes to ideas and situations that they don’t really think about all the time.”

Vinita M. Alexander