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An Octoroon

An Octoroon
Your Price: $17.95 CDN
Author: Branden Jacobs-Jenkins
Publisher: Dramatists Play Service (cover may change)
Format: Softcover
# of Pages: 60
Pub. Date: 2015
ISBN-10: 082223226X
ISBN-13: 9780822232261
Cast Size: 5 female, 10 male (doubling)

About the Play:

An Octoroon won the 2014 Obie Award for Best New American Play

An Octoroon is a full-length melodrama by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins. A plantation on the brink of foreclosure. The Master has died and his naive young nephew tries to hold things together, but an evil swindler is out to buy the land. Meanwhile, the slaves chat and gossip, and the beautiful, young ward of the estate has a secret that will change everything. Based on Dion Boucicault's controversial classic, this Obie Award winning play is part period satire and part meta-theatrical middle finger at the history of slavery and identity in America.

An Octoroon is the story of modern-day, black playwright BJJ (who shares the author's initials and profession). He is prompted by his therapist to restage the 19th-century hit play The Octoroon (a politically incorrect term referring to someone whose ancestry is one-eighth black). It is an exercise in helping him get over his "minor depression." What happens next is a blur of laugh-out-loud dialogue, jaw-dropping theatricality and big emotional impact. The play within the play depicts the happenings on the Plantation Terrabone. Judge Peyton is dead and his plantation is in financial ruins. Peyton's handsome nephew George arrives as heir apparent and quickly falls in love with Zoe, the beautiful young 'octoroon' of the title and a free woman. But, the dastardly overseer M'Closky has other plans – for both Terrebonne and Zoe. A coruscating comic melodrama that pulls the masks off centuries of racial representation onstage, this award-winning play uses the plot of the Irish playwright Dion Boucicault's 1859 melodrama as a starting point for a fiercely hilarious, contemporary look at love, race and slavery in America today compared with over a hundred years ago.

An Octoroon premiered in 2014 at Soho Rep (New York, off-off-Broadway), where it had two extensions and a sold-out engagement and won the 2014 Obie Award for Best New American Play. Subsequently produced in 2015 at the Polonsky Shakespeare Center (Brooklyn, NY), followed by regional premieres at professional theatres across the US, including Artists Repertory Theatre (Portland, Oregon). In 2017 it premiered in Canada at the Shaw Festival (Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario) and in the UK at the Orange Tree Theatre (Richmond), winning the Most Promising Playwright Award at the Evening Standard Awards.

Cast: 5 female, 10 male (doubling)

What people say:

"An Octoroon invites us to laugh loudly and easily at how naïve the old stereotypes now seem, until nothing seems funny at all… Mr. Jacobs-Jenkins is using a genre associated with exclamation points to ask questions not only about the portrayal of race in America but also about the inadequate means we have for such portrayals. I don't think it's too much of a spoiler to reveal that this show ends – spectacularly and hauntingly – with all of us in the dark." — The New York Times

"A work that is infinitely playful and deeply serious and which dazzlingly questions the nature of theatrical illusion." — The Guardian (UK)

"Super oxygenating – despite moments of palpable fear and disquiet, we leave feeling somehow healthier, as though the theater has given us a violent shake and a pep talk." — Time Out (New York)

"[A] wildly imaginative new work by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins. An Octoroon simultaneously gives us [Dion Boucicault's] great melodrama and its contemporary reverberations. [The play] might induce vertigo, but it insists that making theater can be the best way to talk back to history." — The Village Voice

About the Playwright:

Dion Boucicault (1820-1890) was perhaps the most popular playwright of the nineteenth century. Though admired in his time mainly for his acting, he wrote some 250 plays, contributed to the development of copyright laws, and became the first English dramatist to receive performance royalties. His daughter Nina Boucicault also became a famous actor, now best known for originating the role of J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan.

Branden Jacobs-Jenkins is an African-American playwright. He is a two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist, a two-time Obie Award winner, a MacArthur "Genius Grant" Award recipient, and was awarded the PEN/Laura Pels International Foundation Theatre Award, among many other honours.

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