Man Down (Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2018)
It’s April 2015 and the Baltimore Riots have only just begun. As the city fights to end police brutality, interracial couple Michael and Eva struggle to hold on to each other. Tensions mount over colonial attitudes, Freddie Gray’s controversial death, and the beginnings of a monumental racial justice movement that sweeps the country. A new original play, Man Down, is a tender, sometimes uncomfortable, examination of love in the light of racial violence.
Run Time: 60 minutes
New Writing, Play, Drama, Political, Social Justice, Romance
A millennial love story in a divided America
It’s 2015 and the United States is rife with violent arrests of young black men. Peaceful protests against the violent arrest and death of Freddie Gray, an unarmed black man turn into an all out riot overnight. The Baltimore Riots of 2015 were a breaking point for police brutality in the U.S. Man Down by Hannah Trujillo is an original play that examines racial violence through the lens of a romantic relationship.
Eva Ramirez and Michael Sterling’s unyielding love holds them together as a surge in police brutality against young black men ripples through the United States. Eva’s devotion to Michael is challenged when her estranged brother Eddie reappears asking to reconnect. Seemingly thuggish Freddie also reveals himself and complicates things for Michael and Eva.
Can their love survive the strife?
It took three years of research, and long talks with Baltimore natives to start writing this piece. The story came as a crumbling romance. I was very moved by the idea of people as flawed structures. Each character is their own fully fleshed, flawed fighter. Each character believes they are right. I think that reflects recent American politics. Neither party seems able to have a real conversation about what is systematically wrong with police brutality, gun control, education, etc.
It started with a loosely outlined collection of scenes and had a group of actors come and read them. We then workshopped for a year with two casts. Each workshop session incorporated a long improvisation process. Most of the words in the show are based off of those improvisation sessions.
Every few weeks I had a new draft of the script. We have a 105 page version, and a 52 page version, and about 10 more in between. What is being shown in Edinburgh is one iteration.
This story would not be told without the flexibility and courage from those actors.
It was during our second workshop production that the piece felt like it needed it's own soundtrack. We wanted to honor the blues, jazz, and neo-soul styles that have emerged from the African-American diaspora. Our composer Ian Stahl created several original compositions to accompany the piece. The music, with the found footage from the actual Riots creates a very important cinematic feeling to the work. Because so much of the Baltimore Riots was broadcast by national news stations, and made to look more violent than it truly was, we felt we needed to reconstruct the way we looked at the footage and the text. The music is our way of doing this.