The following is an interview with writer/director Tony Robinson regarding the upcoming launch of Black Annie and the Pastor in coordination with Towne Street Theatre on Sunday, February 26th, at 4 p.m./PT. In this interview, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief Barbra Dillon chats with Robinson about his continued partnership with the Towne Street Theatre, how the production may connect with readers especially in light of recent political events, and more!
Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: You will soon be streaming a one-night-only virtual screening of Black Annie and the Pastor in association with Towne Street Theatre. As this will be returning partnership with Towne Street Theatre after last year’s production of the play, what inspired you to reunite with the organization this year?
Tony Robinson: This not a reuniting but a continuation of my time as a member of Towne Street; however, were I not a member, I would have sought that association because of the company’s long history of presenting quality theater and dedication to social consciousness. I cannot think of another theater company that is so committed to exploring the treasure trove of African American stories with such focus on inclusivity, because our sagas are true American stories. Humans of every hue and origin are essential in illustrating the humanity of the African American experience above and beyond the two-dimensional depictions that we have been subjected to both in historical and fictional portraitures.
African American stories have ofttimes been overlooked or given perfunctory acknowledgement. Black Annie and the Pastor is an example partial chronicling. The photograph of the lynching is iconic, but how many people [know] the story behind it or the ensuing actions of a community in its defiance of the white power structure? That’s the kind of storytelling that Towne Street does better than anyone else.
BD: As the production’s writer and director, do you find that you each new viewing of the production impacts you differently or that certain elements resonate more strongly with you?
TR: In both of those capacities, I always see something that could have been done differently. For me that’s the beauty of theater. Each piece is a living, breathing entity, and, like any other living entity, there is constant evolution.
BD: There will also be an audience Q&A and discussion following the screening, led by Henry Ealy, PhD (retired chair of the American Cultures Department and retired president of the Black Faculty and Staff Association at Los Angeles City College) and Brooke-Renee Kinser Bonnell M.A. (Academic Advisor and Adjunct Instructor of Sociology at Ball State University). What can audiences anticipate in terms of this supplemental experience?
TR: I can’t say exactly what will transpire during the post-show discussion, because it will depend on how Dr. Ealy, Ms. Kinser-Bonnell, and the audience are affected by the presentation. Since the Q&A will be directed towards the newly passed anti-lynching bill, my hope is that there will be a lively and spirited discussion. If the history of Towne Street Theatre conversations is any indication, that expectation will be met.
BD: At Fanbase Press, our #StoriesMatter initiative endeavors to highlight the impact that stories can have on audiences of various mediums. How do you feel that Black Annie and the Pastor will connect with and impact audiences?
TR: I feel that Black Anne and the Pastor can heighten the awareness of how far we as a country must go to achieve the goals expounded in the country’s founding documents. Why did it take so long to get an anti-lynching bill passed, and, sadly, why is such bill even necessary this far into the 21st century? The events in the play occurred ninety-three years ago, and we are still experiencing heinous acts of violence against African Americans. They don’t happen with ropes and nooses, but they are still unjust executions without due process. It also makes one wonder about the legislators who voted against the bill. Are those people pro-lynching, or did they want to keep that option in their back pocket “just in case?”
BD: Lastly, what would you like to tell readers who want to learn more about and purchase tickets for Black Annie and the Pastor?
TR: It might be wise to get tickets early as Towne Street events tend to fill up fast, even in the virtual universe.
Here are the links that have information and access to tickets:
Thank you for your support and interest.