‘Brown: Jesus from Another Planet’
Welcome to the future.
Cataclysmic earthquakes, flooding and fracking have resulted in an America divided — literally. Texas has seceded from the union and changed its name to Texas-by-God, San Francisco is now the Floating Island of San Francisco, Alaska is its own kingdom, and New York is fully submerged underwater (but still open for business).
It’s “Brown: Jesus from Another Planet,” playwright Dennis Bohr’s satirical take on the not-too-distant future, and it’s coming to I.G. Greer Studio Theatre at Appalachian State University Feb. 8, March 1 and 2.
“It’s commentary on America’s lack of respect for the environment, I suppose,” said Bohr, a lecturer in Appalachian’s English department. “But the idea of the fracturing of America came about when I was watching and reading the news.”
The story centers on Brown (played by Bohr), a child born in Woodstock in 1969, who, due to a certain music festival happening at that time, grows up without knowing his father’s identity. Sixty years later, he’s searching for his father and finds trouble instead — namely through Buzz Mann (played by Ben Crow), an interrogator from Texas-by-God.
The main story, Bohr said, follows Brown, Buzz and Brown’s mother, Molly Bloomers (played by Georgia Rhoades), as the audience learns what’s happened to the protagonist since Woodstock. More so, he said, the play is about conflict resolution.
“I’m seeing it as a nonviolent way of solving conflict, if that makes sense,” Bohr said, without offering any spoilers. “Maybe this will bring about consciousness-raising, I suppose, changing people’s perspective. We’ve been doing the same thing for centuries now. Maybe it’s time to try something a little different. I offer a perspective on that.”
Bohr hatched the idea for “Brown” several years ago, but current events have shaped it into the production it is today.
“I read the paper every day, and one way to combat global warming, they say, is recycling, that kind of stuff, but it’s the same thing I felt when I wanted to protest the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan,” he said. “What I could do is write about it. I could protest it that way, and that’s what I see my writing trying to do.”
Directed by Bohr and Mary Anne Maier, “Brown” is a production of Black Sheep Theatre, a grassroots theater group founded by Bohr, wife Rhoades and Maier in 1994. The group focuses on “original political theater,” Bohr said.
Most of the company’s productions deal with topical and often controversial subjects. “MacBeth: The Play That Dare Not Speak Its Name” focuses on the futility of war and the nature of storytelling, while “Pope Joan: The Hiss of the Snake” explores traditional Catholic views on women.
“We’re not trying to offend,” Rhoades said in a previous interview. “It’s satire. It’s to point out that what is offensive to some is not to others.”
“Brown: Jesus from Another Planet” is the fulfillment of an ASU Sustainability Arts Grant and will be presented Friday and Saturday, Feb. 28 and March 1, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, March 2, at 2 p.m. Parental discretion is advised, as the play contains social satire and strong language. Admission is $5.
I.G. Greer Studio Theatre is located in the lower level of I.G. Greer Hall, facing the B.B. Dougherty Administration Building on campus.
The cast for “Brown: Jesus from Another Planet” features Georgia Rhoades as Molly Bloomers, Brown’s mother; Dennis Bohr as Brown, the kid born at Woodstock in 1969; Ben Crow as Buzz Mann, an interrogator for Texas-by-God; Annie Wright as Holly Jolly, a newscaster; Sarah Carpenter as Ollie Jolly, co-anchor; Travis LeFay as Carlos D’Anger, e-Mayor of Los Angeles; LeFay as Super Ted Texas, leader of Texas-by-God; Scott Williford as Jimi-Jesus, radio personality and guru of San Francisco; Travis Boswell as Mitt-King, King of Utah; C.C. Hendricks as Mayor Chelsea, mayor of New Atlantis; Bohr as Lala Pierre, spokesperson for the NRA; Hendricks as Betty Jo Mary Sue, a third-grader; Williford as Pope Frank I, the Pope; Rhoades as Dr. Neon Leon, an expert; Bohr as Randy Paul, leader of The Real USA; Emily McClain as Queen-Sarah-Michele, Queen of Alaska; Boswell as Ohwowman, friend of Molly Bloomers; Boswell as Luke Warm, commercial voice; and Boswell, LeFay, Williford and Hendricks as Dudes.