Written by playwright Dwayne Alistair Thomas and directed by Katrina Shobe, The West Philly Meeting begins its run next week at Theatre in the X.
Malcolm X Park at 5100 Pine Street is a lot of things to a lot of people; Black neighbors, young and old, who have forever raised their families around this bucolic West Philadelphia mossy marvel.
Since 2013, Theatre in the X, co-founded by executive director LaNeshe Miller-White and artistic directors Carlo Campbell and Walter DeShields, have been the dramatic sociocultural centerpiece of the park, one which, in their words, provides “The people of West Philadelphia and the African American community at large the opportunity to see professional quality theater in their own neighborhood for no cost. By removing the barriers of location and price, the audience is able to experience theater that they possibly would not be able to access otherwise. Theatre in the X provides opportunities to playwrights, actors, directors, stage managers, DJs, sound engineers and vendors of color.”
With all that, how could a play such as “The West Philly Meeting” not be a joyful celebration of the park as well as a bracing discussion based around and directed to its habitués.
“Awards and recognition for what we do is fine, but, there is no greater reward than performing for our people in their home,” said Carlo Campbell during a brief call.
Written during a two-year-plus period by playwright Dwayne Alistair Thomas, directed by Katrina Shobe and running August 22 and 29 at 5 pm (rain dates: August 21 and 28), The West Philly Meeting’s dramatic narrative was culled from real discussions about what has long mattered to, and affected, the neighbors around Malcolm X Park. It could be neighborhood gossip, it could be about kids in school, it could be about life in the pandemic, it could be the slaughter of Black bodies at the hands of the police. Gatherings held by Theatre in the X, notated by Thomas, and delivered again by its crew of actors is the spine and soul of The West Philly Meeting.