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| Monday, August 10, 2009

Nestled in a vibrant and artistic section of Fort Greene, Brooklyn in the South Oxford performance space is home to a relatively new theatre company that may not be on the radar of the avid theatergoer and lacks the multi-million dollar budget of the Broadway shows downtown, yet their work is just as entertaining and perhaps arguably more profound.

Freedom Train Productions founded in 2006 by playwright and artistic & managing director Andre Lancaster is the only political theater company in America that features black gay characters as protagonists written by up-and-coming black playwrights in residence.

One such playwright is the incredibly gifted Derek Lee McPhatter whose play "Bring The Beat Back:An Apocalyptist Episode" is apart of Freedom Train's annual Fire! new play festival that is presented every August to the community and NYC producers.

"Beat" crosses a lot of cultural terrain from the “cult of the celebrity” to rigid religious dogma, to gay house culture, says McPhatter on a post on his blog. "You can't get on if you can't get down".

Noticing a lack of queer people of color and their stories being represented on stage Lancaster has set out to change this. "We do have these black queer protagonists at center stage, but our responsibility is to show how this story impacts everyone. It changes peoples hearts to see their struggle, to see their story, from a black queer protagonist. That is what Freedom Train is trying to do., show by show", notes Lancaster.

Also setting Freedom Train apart from other theater companies is the time and energy invested in each artist as their work is nurtured in a supporting environment from concept to drafts to finally being presented onstage.

Art truly imitates life and the team at Freedom Train understands the potential impact of these stories being exposed to the masses.

The Fire! new play festival will continue on August 12-13 with Ayanna Maia's 'Woman To Woman", the story of the love between a plus- sized black woman and a former drag king and will conclude on August 19-20 with Patricia Ione Lloyd's "Dirty Little Black Girls, a story following the lives of Park Slope Nannies and other domestic employees-including a Jamaican housekeeper who's having an affair with her female employer.

Visit Freedom Train's website for show and ticket information.

Photo Credit: Sabelo Narasimhan