Yellowman, which opened at Evanston’s Next Theatre April 26, is an eloquent and blistering examination of attitudes about skin color within the black community of South Carolina’s Gullah country, where, as almost everywhere, it can be a curse to be either darker or lighter than one’s peers. Director Chuck Smith says he found the subject of Dael Orlandersmith’s 2002 play difficult to deal with, but Jacqueline Williams and Jason Delane deliver engrossing performances, both as two young friends who become lovers and as the rainbow of other characters around them. This weekend, the play’s prickly subject matter will provide fodder for a panel discussion, “Passing for White: Intraracial Prejudice in America,” hosted by Next and featuring Smith, Northwestern University professor and queer theorist E. Patrick Johnson, and actor and writer Michael Fosberg. Fosberg auditioned for Yellowman but didn’t make the cut. He says the experience is a prime example of the problem: it seemed to him that as far as Smith was concerned, he was “just a white guy trying to pass as black.” The discussion gets under way at 4 on Saturday, May 1, at the theater in the Noyes Cultural Arts Center, 927 Noyes in Evanston. It’s free, but reservations are suggested. Yellowman continues through May 23 with performances at 7:30 PM on Thursday, 8 PM on Friday and Saturday, and 2 PM on Sunday. Ticket prices range from $18 to $29, with discounts available for students and seniors. Call 847-475-1875 for reservations, tickets to the play, and information on related events.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Michael Brosilow.