By George Kevin Jordan, AFRO Staff Writer
What is the old saying? History has a way of repeating itself? If that is true actor Keith Hamilton Cobb hopes to add something new to the conversation of race, theater, art and love, as he returns to the District with his breakthrough play “American Moor”.
American Moor,” the award winning play written and performed by Cobb comes back to the Anacostia Playhouse, 2020 Shannon Pl S.E., Washington, DC 20020, after five years away, in a four week engagement Jan. 9 – Feb. 3.
“It started about six and a half years ago,” Cobb said in an interview with the AFRO. “After 30 years in the business I wasn’t quite sure how I fit in.”
‘I was starting to realize there was no separation of me as an African American male and as an actor.”
“I began to write it down,” Cobbs said.
“America Moor” is about a veteran African American actor who auditions for the role of Shakespeare’s “Othello,” and must deal with a young white director who has his own notions about a believable Black character. The play is now part of the Folger Shakespeare Library’s permanent collection and, “Paints the portrait of an American theater unaware of its failures, and of the culture that supports it,” according to the press release.
Cobb is familiar with both the worlds of the African Diaspora and theater. He had the good fortune of playing characters that many different demographics recognize and remember. He played Noah Keefer for ABC’s “All My Children,” Tyr Anasazi for Gene Rodenberry’s “Andromeda,” Damon Porter for CBS’s “The Young and the Restless” and Quincy Abrams on the Logo series “Noah’s Arc.” This doesn’t include his long history on the stage with the Shakespeare Theatre Company, The Denver Theatre Company as well as many contemporary roles on television and in film.
But for all his roles, “American Moor,” has challenged him the most. It made him seek out major questions for the audience and himself.
“What will it take to see the wholety of another person,” Cobb asked he was asking with this play. “What does unconditional love look like?”
It obviously struck a chord with people because even with his first performance of “American Moor” people had visceral reactions.
And with each performance, each iteration or draft the play it’s always evolving and has taken many forms, Cobb said.
“You know what they say, writing is rewriting,” Cobb said. “So I don’t know what draft it is, but it will be well above seventy five.”
As Cobb and his team honed the play they winnowed it down and by the time it got to the East Coast last year, it seemed to have it a sweet spot. Then they stuck with the 90 minute format.
This time around Kim Weild is in the director’s chair. A Drama Desk Award nominee, Wield’s works has been seen at Lincoln Center Theater, Carnegie Hall, New York Live Arts and directed Liza Birkenmeier’s “The Way Out West,” commissioned by Carnegie Mellon University.
Cobb is excited to be back on the East Coast with his work and promises this play for everyone.
“People talk to this play from their own perspective,” Cobb said. “They speak back to things that affect them.
“There are things here that you and I will share.”