Black teenager shot by white cop: The play ‘Scraps’ for home viewing
From left, Denise Yolén, Stan Mayer, Ahkei Togun, Tyrin Niles and Ashlee Olivia / I.C. Rapoport

The Matrix Theatre Company’s award-winning production of Scraps by Geraldine Inoa is now available for viewing on the company’s Youtube page.

In a provocative mash-up of poetry, realism, and expressionism, Scraps boldly chronicles how the family and friends of a black teenager shot by a white police officer struggle to cope in the aftermath.

Set in Brooklyn, New York, three months after the fatal shooting, this daring new play ran for two-and-a-half months at the Matrix Theatre in Los Angeles, receiving accolades including three Ovation and five Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle award nominations and a “Critic’s Choice” review from Charles McNulty at the Los Angeles Times.

People’s World reviewed this powerhouse of a play on July 10, 2019. The following three paragraphs are excerpted from that review:

It’s a truism (meaning it’s like super-true) that white people can never fully understand African-American pain. Isn’t this what theatre—and that would include comedy too—is ultimately all about? Trying to convey the particular dilemmas of the characters in the play and hoping that between the acting and the directing, aided by all the stagecraft the production can muster, the artists can just maybe begin to help an audience appreciate what it’s like walking in another person’s shoes.

“Such is the case with this valiantly staged play about the aftermath of a white cop’s shooting of a Black male in the depressed Brooklyn community of Bedford-Stuyvesant, known as Bed-Stuy. Yes, we see these headlines over and over from every part of the country, but what we never see is how the surviving loved ones struggle to cope once the cops are cleared of any charges, as is almost always the case.

Scraps is a cry of rage and despair that references the entire African-American presence in the Americas since the first enslaved human beings were brought to Jamestown 400 years ago in 1619. The problem is that the trauma of servitude and murder, and all the other forms of effacement of dignity that African-American people have had to suffer for four centuries, never achieves what the pop psychologists call “closure.” We cannot even speak of PTSD—Post Traumatic Stress Disorder— because there’s never a post trauma in this saga: There’s always another trauma lurking right around the corner when some armed cop strutting the streets finds someone’s radio a little too loud, some dude’s ’tude just a little less than acceptably submissive, some young Black woman’s tail light just a little too broken.”

Damon Rutledge as Sebastian / Stan Mayer

Scraps was directed by 2019 Obie Award winner Stevie Walker-Webb; the excellent cast includes Stan Mayer, Tyrin Niles, Ashlee Olivia, Damon Rutledge, Ahkei Togun, and Denise Yolén.

How Scraps came to the Matrix has a significant backstory. In 2009, just after Barack Obama became the nation’s 44th president and following more than three decades of producing multiple award-winning work for the stage, Matrix Theatre Company founder/artistic director Joe Stern resolved to redirect the company’s focus to the exploration of race issues in contemporary society. Since then, the Matrix has offered up critically acclaimed productions of a long series of plays by such writers as Lydia Diamond, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, Arthur Miller (a multi-culturally cast production of All My Sons), Jackie Sibblies Drury, and Katori Hall, among others.

The complete original People’s World review can be seen here.

An interview with one of the play’s co-stars, Denise Yolén, can be read here.

To read the Los Angeles Times article “How Joe Stern made Hollywood’s Matrix Theater dramatically diverse,” see here.

The two-act (but intermissionless) Scraps can be viewed here on the Matrix Theatre Company’s Youtube page. The duration is 90 minutes.


CONTRIBUTOR

Eric A. Gordon
Eric A. Gordon

Eric A. Gordon is the author of a biography of radical American composer Marc Blitzstein, co-author of composer Earl Robinson’s autobiography, and the translator (from Portuguese) of a memoir by Brazilian author Hadasa Cytrynowicz. He holds a doctorate in history from Tulane University. He chaired the Southern California chapter of the National Writers Union, Local 1981 UAW (AFL-CIO) for two terms and is director emeritus of The Workmen's Circle/Arbeter Ring Southern California District. In 2015 he produced “City of the Future,” a CD of Soviet Yiddish songs by Samuel Polonski. He received the Better Lemons "Up Late" Critic Award for 2019, awarded to the most prolific critic.

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