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The Robey Theatre Company’s Danny Glover and Ben Guillory lead the way with their “Let’s Talk” Virtual Series
By By Marisa Hall and Lena Anderson, Contributing Writers
Published July 9, 2020

One of the fundamental ways of aiding in the understanding of personal stories and truth is through the art of visual representation. Within the genre of art, there rests several bridges between emotion and the human condition; yet, the platform that honors one of the greatest methods of interpreting the personification of this bridge is the theatre.

In the face of a global pandemic and racial injustice, it can be difficult to gain access to the many bridges that are built to sustain connection to the theatre. So, when the ladies of Philanthropy Is, a company that focuses on exclusive insight community givers, heard about the work being done by the Robey Theatre Company, we sat center stage with Ben Guillory to engage, celebrate and share the news.

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On Saturday July 4, a much-needed conversation was launched on Zoom called “Let’s Talk.” Hosted by Millena Gay and featuring the Robey Theatre Company’s co-founders, Danny Glover and Ben Guillory, this event was the first of six projected virtual events. Over 100 participants. The Robey Theatre Company’s mission is to foster a community of artists whose purpose is to develop and produce plays written about the global Black experience. At its core, the organization is committed to effecting social change and to the preservation, production, and reinterpretation of celebrated “Black Classics.”

Los Angeles Sentinel: What is impact of the ‘Let’s Talk’ virtual event series?

Ben Guillory (File Photo)

Ben Guillory: We always work to remain in touch & hear the thoughts of our constituency. During this very dangerous time of the pandemics, we look to let folks know what we’re doing and intend to do once we can raise the curtain safely & to speak to how this is affecting the theatre community overall & Robey specifically. And of course, to speak about George Floyd and the ongoing uprising.

LAS: Influencing the African American community by educating audiences through storytelling of the global Black experience is the manifestation of work done with integrity; but one would want to know why these Let’s Talk conversations are needed, especially now?

BG: Conversations are all important to the creative process, and for those of us who look to develop our social consciousness, it is imperative to exchange ideas and evolve together. These ideas for Robey are then mined to develop and tell our story. This need is not new; communication on important topics has also been part of our culture. This is how we ID what is happening to people of color and look to do something about it. Sometimes, that is obvious, other times, not so much.

LAS: As each of the discussions will open up the floor to topics related to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on theatre, racial tensions ignited by the appalling slayings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks and Ahmaud Arbery, and how the theatre community might respond, there is a voice and perspective needed to be in the room. How important is it for Black artists and lovers of theatre to be involved with and embrace the state of Black theatre today?

BG: “It is very important for Black artists and lovers of Black theatre to be involved in embracing the truth about the state of theatre today. Artists are the creatives who make theatre magic happen. Lovers of theatre are the supporters who provide the passion of an audience and resources that assist in meeting budgetary needs as well as inspire us to find and develop our platform to speak.”

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LAS: So many people are talking about the state of things as a result of the global pandemic and the uncivil pandemic. There is a level of understanding and conversations that is needed to bring about this change. What can we do to be more involved in cultivating a language of understanding that moves from the theater and the conversations like those on Let’s Talk into the world?

BG: If there is a singular steadfast rule that one must adhere to as a theatre artist, it is to listen … listen … listen. There is much ‘noise’ that one must navigate; still, one will begin to understand if we listen to each other.

LAS: In Jesse Williams’ 2016 BET Awards Speech, he says, “… the thing is that just because we’re magic doesn’t mean we’re not real.”

Fast forward to 2020; is the world changing? It’s not just African Americans who are wanting change in the community, Asian American, Latinx and White individuals are also voicing their support for the movement. Why do you think so many non-African Americans want to get involved with Black Lives Matter?

BG: Because of the passion and courage of so many to pursue what is right at all cost. Because some of us … many of us, most of us are simply fed up with the murderous consequence of being Black in America.

If you’d like to know more about the Let’s Talk virtual series, visit https://www.robeytheatrecompany.org The July 4 talk was recorded and will be available for viewing on the Robey Theatre Company’s YouTube Channel, starting Friday, July 10.

Categories: Exclusive | Exclusive (Entertainment) | Theater
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