Jones: Our production is being done in a black neighborhood. Racist news outlets would say that such a production would be impossible. But like most such assertions and ideologies, they are exposed in the face of reality. And the reality is: The community is coming out in great numbers and loving it.
Jones: In cities with large black communities, especially with great poverty, parks are often named after Malcolm X or Martin Luther King, Jr. Malcolm X did spend time in Philadelphia at a mosque on South Street. That’s where he saw a lot of guys in the mosque who were not really following the faith but were criminals. He knew they were killers. And like Jesus who threw out the money changers from the temple, Malcolm X tried to throw the criminals out of the mosque. He got into an argument with the elder Elijah Muhammad over that issue, and eventually, the charismatic young firebrand got assassinated by members of the Nation of Islam.
Jones: The intention of all involved with Theater in the X is to bring smart, challenging, interesting, and passionate theater to the people: Theater that does not insult the intellect, culture, or community. Theater that is for free. Theater that is for all. The goal for the future is to do that more and more often.
We are building a community. The whole idea is to reach a wide audience through theater, something that the community is actually looking forward to with many more productions in the future.
Jones: I’m trying to make my work more and more like a cave painting and get rid of all pretense. Nothing is hidden from the audience. That was important to me. I didn’t want to go into a poor community and change the words. I changed nothing. They heard the same Shakespeare they would hear if they were to go to the National Theatre in London.
Jones: I partially grew up around 52nd, and that neighborhood is filled with my family. If you are in any “hood,” you get what you are looking for. If any of the readers go up there looking for drugs, stolen property deals, etc., that’s what they will get.
However, if they go up there to live, eat, drink, chill, build with the community, and watch a play in the park, that’s what they will get—they will get nothing but love. My suggestion would be for everyone to turn off the television and get the EL to 52nd Street, get a grub, watch the play, and relax.
Jones: Yes. What sets Theatre in the X apart is that Malcolm X Park is in one of the coolest, historically relevant sections of Philadelphia. 52nd street is the ultimate. It’s fantastic: Great theater in a fabulous place. Everybody should come.
For earlier versions, published by Phindie, click here and there.