Topdog/Underdog : Post Show Conversation with MIT professor Sandy Alexandre

4/8/2017 Avenue of the Arts/BU Theatre

Join MIT professor Sandy Alexandre and Huntington dramaturg Charles Haugland for a post-show discussion after the 2pm performance of Topdog/Underdog on April 8.

Sandy Alexandre’s research spans the late nineteenth-century to present-day black American literature and culture. Her first book, The Properties of Violence: Claims to Ownership in Representations of Lynching (Mississippi 2012), uses the history of American lynching violence as a framework to understand matters concerning displacement, property ownership, and the American pastoral ideology in a literary context. For example, in one chapter — on Toni Morrison’s Beloved (1987) — she asks readers to consider the gendered implications of seeing lynching iconography itself as a form of owned property. Ms. Alexandre is currently writing another book, Up From Chattels: Thinghood in an Ethics of Black Curation, which will take as its point of departure the premise that the former, enforced condition of black Americans as fungible merchandise can haunt, inform, and morally energize, to some extent, their very own relationships to material objects. This book will explore how some black Americans create what Ms. Alexandre calls a “culture of significance” with material objects. Using literary analysis, studying material artifacts, and engaging the work of black collectors, Ms. Alexandre argues that this improvised, curated, and eventually sacralized culture of subject-object relations constitutes an immanent critique of consumer capitalism. To think truly analytically about black American material culture without resorting hastily to jeremiads about the so-called irreparable and vitiating influence of “bling bling” on that culture is to grant the possibility that, based on the sobering history and memory of black thinghood, some black Americans do engage in a practice of subject-object relations that can be, at once, political, ecological, spiritual and aesthetic. Overall, Ms. Alexandre’s work takes into serious account the ways in which an ecology comprised of people, places, and things can, at once, reverberate and attempt to negotiate the various instances of racial violence that mark the aggregate of US history.


About Topdog/Underdog

Suzan-Lori Parks’ thrilling and darkly comic fable of brotherly love and sibling rivalry. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Drama! Directed by Tony Award winner Billy Porter (Kinky Boots, The Colored Museum at the Huntington).

Topdog/Underdog vibrates with the clamor of big ideas, audaciously and exuberantly expressed. Like Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison's landmark novel of 1952, Topdog/Underdog considers nothing less than the existential traps of being African American and male in the United States, the masks that wear the men as well as vice versa.”  The New York Times

Approximate run time: 2 hours and 20 minutes, including one 10-minute intermission.

“I am over the moon about returning to the Huntington with such an important work. I am humbled that both Peter DuBois and Suzan-Lori Parks have entrusted me to interpret this material for a new generation. I promise to make you proud!”— Billy Porter

“Billy Porter directed a sizzling remount of George C. Wolfe’s The Colored Museum in 2015, and I am delighted to welcome him back this spring to direct a major revival of a play that electrified Broadway audiences nearly 15 years ago: Topdog/Underdog. Exploring Suzan-Lori Parks’ dynamic Pulitzer Prize-winning play in 2017 will be extremely timely and impactful. Billy, a triple threat Tony Award winner, has proven that he is a man of boundless talent, and bringing these two brilliant American theatre artists together is a dream.”— Peter DuBois

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