New Play About Amiri Baraka

Reflections on “Looking for Leroy” by Larry Muhammad

“Looking for Leroy,” written by Larry Muhammad, directed by Petronia Paley, and produced by  Woodie King Jr. founder and director of the New Federal Theater, is an intense and thought-provoking play that depicts the evolution of Amiri Baraka (formerly Leroi Jones.), poet, playwright, fiction writer and essayist.

The play’s characters, the recently deceased Amiri Baraka and Taj, a fictional theatre intern working for Baraka, bring the complexity of Baraka to life.  We witness the story of his life as a beat poet, a Black cultural nationalist, a Marxist and a community organizer.   One hears debates centered on the Black Arts Movement, the role of the artist, the state of Black theatre, and the politics of producing and writing plays centered on the Black experience.  Larry Muhammad references “The Dutchman” Baraka’s controversial and powerful play on the tension between Blacks and whites and his last play “The Most Dangerous Man in America,” a dramatic reflection of the government’s  persecution of W.E.B. Du Bois  who was indicted as a foreign agent at the age of 82.

As I came away from this extraordinary play, I was reminded of the genius of Amiri Baraka, his impact on American theater, and his tenure as the last Poet Laureate of New Jersey.

“Looking for Leroy” closes on March 31 and is playing at the Castillo Theatre in NYC.  For ticket information call 212 353-1176 or go to http://www.castillo.org/

– Brenda M. Greene

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