The New Jack Revisionist Uncle Tom’s Cabin
By Robert Alexander
director La Donna Forsgren
Many of you have opened this program to find out what on earth you’ve gotten yourself into. Maybe you’re even reading this to find out what the heck this “New Jack” really means. Although I cannot provide the answers to all of your questions, let me assure you that I Ain’t Yo’ Uncle: the New Jack Revisionist Uncle Tom’s Cabin is an anachronistic comedy and that this particular production relies heavily upon: the absurd, the ridiculous, and the profane. At times you will witness silly melodramatic acting conventions, “fantastical” special effects that transform the stage, a pack of wild hounds attack our heroine, and much, much, more.
I Ain’t Yo’ Uncle appropriates Harriet Beecher Stowe’s abolitionist novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin; or, Life Among the Lowly (1853) to satirically explore the construction of race and social injustice in America. In I Ain’t Yo’ Uncle the characters from Uncle Tom’s Cabin come to life and put Stowe on trial for creating stereotypes which have caused them to experience “image problems.” But this play isn’t really about Uncle Tom’s Cabin or even Stowe. The concerns raised in I Ain’t Yo’ Uncle began well before the novel was ever written and continue to plague our society today as evidenced by the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin on February 26, 2012. I Ain’t Yo’ Uncle was originally commissioned by the San Francisco Mime Troupe in 1990 and later revised after the brutal beating of Rodney King in 1991 by seven LAPD officers. For many, unnecessary and excessive force used to restrain King simply symbolized the ongoing social injustice African Americans have fought against over the past 350 years. The acquittal of four of the officers involved in the incident provided the spark that ignited an urban rebellion in the Los Angeles area that would last for six days.
Similar to the 1993 film Groundhog’s Day, this production envisions that the characters from Uncle Tom’s Cabin have remained trapped in a state of repetition. They have repeated Stowe’s versions of their lives each night for well over a hundred years until the beating of King and subsequent riots awaken them. Tom, Eliza, George, and Topsy now want to revise and share their own stories with you. It is my hope that you will not only enjoy this interpretation of I Ain’t Yo’ Uncle, but also reconsider why the seemingly disparate events such as enslavement, state repeals of Affirmative Action, and the Rodney King beating remain relevant today. Now sit back, relax, and get ready to mingle with the cast, hiss at our villain Simon Legree, and stomp along to Topsy’s dope rhymes!