Preparing for Crack. Rumble. Fly.: The Bayview Stories Project

By A.C.T. Stage Coach Fellow Ariella Wolfe

Police brutality. Gentrification. Marginalization. For some, these are political buzzwords, but for many residents of the Bayview-Hunters Point neighborhood, they are a daily reality. The play Crack. Rumble. Fly: The Bayview Stories Project, by Aleshea Harris, premieres this month on A.C.T.’s mobile stage unit in Mendell Plaza and gives voice to these struggles as well as the beauty, joy, and pride of this community.

Two years ago, A.C.T.’s Stage Coach began building relationships with community members in Bayview-Hunters Point and commissioned Harris to write a script based on their stories and inspired by a classic Greek play. The thoughts, dreams, and questions shared by community members during A.C.T.-coordinated story circle workshops ultimately informed Harris’s creative decision to adapt Sophocles’s Oedipus the King. The cast of Crack. Rumble. Fly. is made up of professional and community actors from Bayview-Hunters Point and the greater Bay Area, ranging from 13 years old to 85 years young; one cast member is a student in the A.C.T. Master of Fine Arts Program, and the lead actor is a graduate of A.C.T.’s residency at Downtown High School.

Cheri Lynn Miller and the cast of Crack. Rumble. Fly.: The Bayview Stories Project
warming up with an improv exercise. Photo by Ariella Wolfe.

The rehearsal and production process has brought together many people and has already left a profound impact on A.C.T. as well as the greater community. Between rehearsals, cast member and Bayview resident Cheri Lynn Miller shared what she hopes audiences will walk away with after seeing the performance:

With the recent deaths of Mario Woods and Jessica Nelson Williams, and young people struggling to live within the fullness of themselves, I would hope that a sense of urgency is rumbling within each of the audience members. Even if they don't live in the Bayview, there is so much work to be done to love our children whole again.

One of the main characters is named Jessa. She, bold and fearless, sacrifices her life for her community to have a greater awareness of their worth and the need to make their voices heard in opposition to those in authority that would silence them. This character is played by an amazing young actress, named Jessica. Jessica Jones having the same name as the young woman expecting a child, who was shot and killed in Bayview last month, was a significant coincidence. The timing of the presentation of
Crack. Rumble. Fly. makes me truly believe that there is a greater force of awakening coming to the community.

It’s up to the cast to make the emotions within the play—the urgency and the connectivity of the pain the community is breathing in every day—come to life in a way that the audience can see themselves in us. They should see the truth as well as feel entertained. The playwright, Aleshea Harris, has ensured that every line, every piece of the story, is connected to the truth of who we are and what we are experiencing within Bayview. I want it to be the start of a beautiful revival within the community. Within us. For our children's sakes.

Join us at the Bayview Arts Festival on June 18, from 12 to 3 p.m. at Mendell Plaza (3rd and Palou), including a 1 p.m. performance of Crack. Rumble. Fly.: The Bayview Stories Project. This festival, featuring art, food, and family entertainment, serves to honor the legacy and continued work of African American artists and activists in this neighborhood and across the Bay Area. For details and information about a preview of play excerpts at 3rd on Third and an additional Sunday performance at Laughing Monk Brewing, check out our Facebook event page or the A.C.T. website. Stage Coach is made possible by the generous support of The James Irvine Foundation.

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