Live theater, at its core, is a platform for change. Theater is a venue for artists to let their voices be heard and insight revolutionary thinking. In the case of “Hands Up Hoodies Down” the voices are that of black men and women who have been systematically silenced by a society that favors white culture. Through a collective celebration of black culture, the players of “Hands Up Hoodies Down” make their voices heard. This play is a call to action to no longer accept racism and inequality, but to strive for a better future where everyone is truly treated as equal. I can only describe the importance of this show through the words of cast member and poet/singer Chelsea Manasseri, “These lives matter and these stories deserve to be told.”
Zell Miller III leads the cast of “Hands Up Hoodies Down” in an exciting and emotionally charged show. Miller’s words are the kind that hit hard and leave the show with you. He does not candy coat any of his statements. He urges not to ignore the glaring issue of racism that exists in America today. Miller’s performance is one of the most genuine performances I have seen this year. In a single moment he is able to convey his anger and frustration along with hope. It is the kind of performance that comes from the heart and nowhere else.
“Hands Up Hoodies Down” is celebration of black forms of performance. Including: African drums, dance, rap, bboy, and soul, juxtaposed against the image of a white hoodie with bullet wounds suspended over a gun target, a symbol for those victimized by police brutality. There is even a homage to prominent black performers such as, Kendrick Lamar, and Jay Z. Each performance had a lasting impact and emphasized the theme of the show.
The performance of Chelsea Manasseri was one that will surely stick with the audience. From beginning to end I was
captivated by her beautiful voice and powerful words. In her songs I heard the voice of someone who is truly heartbroken for those who have lost their lives to racist acts. Manasseri and Miller had a back and forth in the show that was truly special to watch. Their poetry bounced between each other like a sort of game. Their words seamlessly guide the show as a whole.
It is impossible for me to sum up the quality and importance of “Hands Up Hoodies Down.” It is a show that must be seen not only for its important message but for the level of performance displayed by these artists. I urge my readers to see “Hands Up Hoodies Down.” It is the type of show that can only make you better for having seen it. “Hands Up Hoodies Down” is theater that deserves and needs to be seen and discussed.
Hands UP Hoodies Down runs until September 26th. Tickets can be purchased at vortexrep.org