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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Superheroes: Cutting Ball and Campo Santo Team Up with a Story on the Crack Epidemic

Posted By on Wed, Dec 10, 2014 at 8:00 AM

Aparecida (Delina Patrice Brooks) swears to Rev  Donald E. Lacy, Jr.) to find the truth about the crack cocaine epidemic in Superheroes. - CHASE RAMSEY
  • Chase Ramsey
  • Aparecida (Delina Patrice Brooks) swears to Rev Donald E. Lacy, Jr.) to find the truth about the crack cocaine epidemic in Superheroes.

When Gary Webb’s articles about the connection between Nicaraguan drug traffickers, the CIA, and the crack epidemic came out in the San Jose Mercury News, San Francisco native Sean San José was living in Oakland an had long seen the effects of crack on the lives of those all around him. 

“It was so stunning to see that in an actual paper,” he said. “Then I got the book and it lays everything out in crystal clear detail. It was both affirming and horrifying – affirming to have the fears you’re walking around with about the country we live in confirmed and horrifying to have them confirmed.”

click to enlarge Free (Myers Clark), Rev (Donald E. Lacy), Aparecida (Delina Patrice Brooks), Bayuncoso (Juan Amador), and Nico (Ricky Saenz) tell their version of the events in Superheroes. - CHASE RAMSEY
  • Chase Ramsey
  • Free (Myers Clark), Rev (Donald E. Lacy), Aparecida (Delina Patrice Brooks), Bayuncoso (Juan Amador), and Nico (Ricky Saenz) tell their version of the events in Superheroes.
Webb’s book about the subject, Dark Alliance, also affected San José, deeply; he says he sees it in the same category as Jeff Chang’s Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop about hip hop, and Randy Shilts' And the Band Played On about the AIDS epidemic.

“There’s something profound about someone laying out the plight of your community not dispassionately, but objectively,” San José said. “It made me want to continue telling the story.”

And he has with the play he wrote and directed, Superheroes, at the Cutting Ball Theatre which is currently on the stage through Dec. 21. San José, co-founder of Campo Santo, wasn’t sure how to put this story on the stage. Talking to Donald Lacy, who interviewed Webb on his show on KPOO and plays the character of Rev in the play, helped San José come up with a way.

“He said something about, ‘Can you imagine all the lives affected and ruined by this?’” San José said. “Those are the stories that are fueling my wanting to tell this. I don’t understand the nefarious thinking of people behind closed doors that led to this, but I do now what people’s faces look like and that there are human beings in this.”

It’s interesting to do the play on Taylor Street, right in the Tenderloin, a neighborhood devastated by the crack epidemic, San José added. They’ve done talk backs after performances as well as performing some of the play at Glide Church, which is a block away from the theater.

“One guy said, ‘My question is if our government does this, what are we going to do about it?’ This is cool stuff – we’ve sparked something. And we have people saying, ‘I grew up in a neighborhood affected by this,’ to people saying, ‘This is as close as I get to it, walking into this theater tonight.’ I don’t know of many conversations about the crack epidemic, so at least it’s started with these 60 people here.”

Superheroes, told in a nonlinear way, incorporates lots of dance and music. San José noted the movement director Rashad Pridgen and sound designer Jake Rodriguez helped the play come alive.

“All these lives have been lost and young lives affected, but at the same time people were dying through it, they’re also living through it,” San José, said. “I wanted to show life – not to oversimplify it, but that’s another meaning of the title– anyone who can live through this is a superhero.”


"Superheroes," now through Dec. 21 at the Cutting Ball Theatre. 
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