A man dressed like Genghis Khan stands left, his right hand outstretched as if describing something. A young Black man in an orange long-sleeved T-Shirt and dark pants stands right, looking on him in amazement or fright. The framing of the photo is slightly off kilter, and a brown wood door is visible in the reare center
The Great Khan at Redtwist Theatre Credit: Aaron Reese Boseman

Redtwist’s rolling world premiere of The Great Khan with the National New Play Network couldn’t be better timed. When Florida’s Department of Education had just rejected an Advanced Placement course in African American studies. When Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders just signed an executive order banning critical race theory in public schools, making Arkansas the 18th state to limit how racism and sexism are taught. And when Missouri lawmakers just proposed three similar bills, which will also allow parents to monitor school curricula. 

A rebellious production about the effects of racism and sexism on Black teens, written by Michael Gene Sullivan and directed by Jamal Howard, this intimate play calls on viewers to confront “history” through the eyes of high schoolers, who aren’t afraid to ask the tough questions. 

The Great Khan
Through 2/26: Thu-Sat 7:30 PM, Sun 3:30 PM, Redtwist Theatre, 1044 W. Bryn Mawr, 773-728-7529, redtwisttheatre.org, $40

After fighting off a group of boys who were assaulting his friend Ant (Monique Marshaun), Jayden (Simon Gebremedhin) and his protective mother, Crystal (LaTorious Givens) move to a new neighborhood. At his predominantly white school, Jayden strikes a deal with his history teacher, Mr. Adams (Bryan Breau): he’ll do his Genghis Khan report if Mr. Adams can name 20 Black Americans who aren’t athletes or entertainers. Traumatized by the world, Jayden grows fascinated with the Mongolian emperor’s vengeful spirit. But when Khan (Steffen Diem Garcia) visits Jayden, he reveals the story written about him is only part of the truth. 

It’s a multiplex piece that demands adults grow up. With Jayden’s class partner Gao Ming (Josie Mi) as our narrator, we start to question how we enable these whitewashed tales and are inspired to find our own answers. If anything, you’ll realize that history is a great con.