The series will start on July 17th with Denmark: Every Man Has a Story, a new play by Ade Ofunniyin. This will be followed on July 31st with a leap to the 1968 Detroit riots with Last Rites. This play premiered at PURE in August 2019 and was written by PURE Core Ensemble member Randy Neale. The series will conclude on August 14th, jumping over a half-century to the present day for a reading of Retcon, a new play by PURE Core Ensemble member Michael Smallwood that examines black rage through the lens of superhero mythology.
Each of the play readings will be followed by a virtual panel discussion between audience members, experts in various fields, and creatives from PURE Theatre. Spanning more than 200 years, "Bearing Witness" gives audiences an opportunity to think deeply about racial injustice and to come together to consider how to move forward in equity.
Bearing Witness opens with a new play by Dr. Ade Ofunniyin, Denmark: Every Man Has a Story. The play chronicles what might have been Denmark Vesey and his lieutenant Gullah Jack’s stories leading up to the planned Rise of 1822 in Charleston. Their revolutionary spirit and patriotic bravery have earned them a noble place in the temple of souls who are eminently martyred in the art of “freedom fighting.”
According to a synopsis in the script, Ofunniyin states, “Vesey’s example of resistance must be regarded as one of the most audacious ever to threaten the racist foundation of America. In him, the pain and suffering of an enslaved people rose to a crescendo that will forever be heard. Denmark stands today, as he stood yesterday... as an awe-inspiring prognosis of the possibilities for a global Black Lives Matter Movement, to at last stand as the vanguard, for global African people who have—for centuries, been made to bow down in fear.”
Ofunniyin (often referred to as Dr. O) is the grandson of legendary Charleston blacksmith Philip Simmons and is the founder of the Gullah Society, where he works to educate and celebrate a deep, meaningful, and accurate view of Gullah people and culture. He has a Ph.D. in Anthropology and is an adjunct professor at the College of Charleston. Ofunniyin is a Cultural Anthropologist, artist, and curator with a special interest in economic empowerment and community development, multiculturalism, and diversity. His interest grew out of his awareness of systemic racism and inequalities in academic institutions, politics, and businesses. He works extensively on Sacred Burial Grounds projects as well as ancestry and DNA tracing.
PURE Theatre Artistic Director Sharon Graci said, "We are thrilled that each of the plays in our Bearing Witness series is written by a Charleston playwright. Stories told by and for members of the Charleston community is what PURE is all about. It's the best way we know to start conversations that are important to all of us, and to keep those conversations going."
More information about how to participate in Bearing Witness will be available at puretheatre.org. The play readings will occur every other week on Friday evenings from 7:30-9:30 pm. These events will be free to attend virtually.