UNC alumnus and performance artist Tristan André hopes people feel at home when they attend the PlayMakers Repertory Company’s production of “They Do Not Know Harlem.”
Showing through Sunday in the Paul Green Theatre, André's performance summons the spirit of civil rights activist and creative writer James Baldwin.
Through movement and dance, the production creates a conversation between André and Baldwin's spirit. André, playing both Baldwin and himself, is the play’s creator and sole actor. In his roles, he explores the identities of Black and queer individuals.
“It is a multimedia experience, and it is a piece that transports time through my voice and through the voice of James Baldwin,” André said.
The story is supported by live music and spoken word, along with projections designed by Joseph Amodei and lighting designed by Kathy Perkins.
With these prominent elements, director Kathy Williams said the show gives audience members more points of entry and interest.
“It’s transportive — all the elements and the way they come together,” she said. “I think it’s the aliveness of it that I just love. And it’s very reflective of our world today because we are inundated with imagery, and music, and sound and movement. It feels like it is both ancient and futuristic at the same time.”
Hope Hanson, a junior studying dramatic art, attended the show last Friday. She said the aspects of the show interacted perfectly to make a beautiful production, noting that André used his physicality to uniquely communicate his story and connection to Baldwin.
André said the production uses futuristic imagery to portray victims of homogenized cultures who make "a decision to dream," forging a life against the terrors of racism.