REVIEW: “Live! From This Candidate” by playwright Kia Corthron
by Toni Starnes
The Black experience in America has been talked about, written about, and generally bemoaned for centuries; this play, however, is a celebration. It celebrates the life of an extraordinary woman. That woman is Charlotta Bass.
Mrs. Bass was a dreamer to be sure, but so much more. She had the courage to act upon her dreams and, along with her husband, to publish a newspaper at a time when people of color were seen only as laborers or servants at best. She exposed prejudice in all areas of life, and wasn’t afraid of the repercussions. An outspoken civil rights advocate who ran for the office of Vice President of the United States in 1952, Charlotta Bass was a hero. She would argue otherwise if she were here, if only she were here.
In her brilliant play “Live! From This Candidate”, playwright Kia Corthron pulls the audience into a tiny room for an intimate conversation with Mrs. Bass. Outside, sound effects give clues as to the location, but you must pay close attention to figure it out. Mrs. Bass recounts her life in beautifully, and sometimes tragically, descriptive words that plunge the audience into her tumultuous, but rewarding existence. As you are drawn into her mind and character, you find yourself hanging on her every word and craving more. Even when the play ends, you feel compelled to learn more about her.
Lisa Gay Hamilton gives a performance that speaks to a deep respect for her character’s accomplishments, as well as a complete understanding of her beliefs, joys, and heartbreaks. Ms. Hamilton is so compelling in this role, that you leave feeling not only that you have actually met and spoken with Charlotta , but that she is more than a friend.
The play was presented by the Southern California Library, a people’s library in South Los Angeles. The library houses an extensive collection of books, magazines, articles and artifacts that represent the history of the area. Nowhere else in the world can there be found such irreplaceable treasures. It is the only place where the craving for a deeper insight into Charlotta Bass can truly be satisfied. The only place to read actual copies of her newspaper.
According to sources at the library, “Live! From This Candidate” will be expanded into a full production in the near future, however, even in its current form, this play is a “must see”. Also, a visit to the library, and the website at www.socalib.org, is equally mandatory. Do not miss the chance to experience both!