April 19th, 2017
“W.E.B. Du Bois: A Man For All Seasons”
Brian Richardson of the Pulse Ensemble Theatre performs in the 80 minute monologue play, “W.E.B. Du Bois: A Man For All Times” at the Howland Public Library in Beacon Saturday afternoon. The performance spanned a large part of Du Bois’ fascinating and powerful life as a fighter for equality and peace for all.
BEACON - At the closing moments of the play, “A Man for All Times, W.E.B. Du Bois, the solo character in the 80 minute monologue, states, “At the ripe age of 95, I can honestly say that I have dedicated my life to the following goals: abolition of poverty, no exploitation of labor, free medical care for all, free education for all and no dogmatic education.”
Brian Richardson, who flawlessly reenacted Du Bois’ actions, gestures, and very words, continues to see the pressing importance of unraveling the details of this historic icon.
“All these struggles are still front and center,” said Richardson, who performs for the not-for-profit, Pulse Ensemble Theatre, based in New York City. “I would like to think his words, as someone who also fought for equal rights, still matter, and I can foster change.”
Richardson brought that catalystic drama to the Howland Public Library Saturday afternoon, as a room full of guests intently watched the actor capture pivotal moments scattered throughout Du Bois’ remarkable life, scanning from 1868-1963. Written by Alexa Kelly, the play implements the authentic words of Du Bois himself. It has been performed around the world, including such places as; The National Black Theater, the Netherlands, as well as in London at the Victoria and Albert Museum for Queen Beatrix and the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, where it received prestigious honors.
As the play opens, a young, energetic and passionate Richardson (as Du Bois) exclaims, “Wake up Americans; your liberties are being stolen right before your very eyes!”
And so begins a lifelong quest to attain equality and freedom for African-Americans. Richardson goes on to point out the entourage of lynchings that took place during his teaching career. He then details his status, and ensuing struggles of isolation and repression as the first African-American enrolled at Harvard University. We also learn of his notorious theory of Double Consciousness, as Richardson affirms, “Always having to measure yourself through the eyes of another, two warring ideals in one dark being.” He goes on to add, “Sometimes, people can only hear your color.”
We soon learn more specifics about Du Bois’ personal life. Married to a white woman, almost unheard of during his time period, he will soon lose his young child to the devastating disease of Diphtheria, a death that could have easily been prevented.
“The white doctors would not come to a black man’s house,” says Richardson. “And the black doctors would not treat an apparently white baby.”
His friendship and work with Booker T. Washington is next revealed, as is their co-founding efforts of the NAACP. The birth and effects of the Harlem Renaissance are introduced next. Soon after, is the birth of his second child, a daughter, Yolanda. Controversy from Du Bois’ nemesis, Marcus Garvey, is next portrayed, followed by Du Bois’ dealings with communist accusations as well as his relocation to Ghana, where he dies at the age of 95. Through it all, Richardson encapsulates Du Bois’ potent legacy, as the play comes to a conclusion.
“The push for world peace is the key to ending segregation,” says a passionate Richardson. “Believe in life; always, human beings will progress; we have nothing to lose but our chains!”
It’s that very spirited nature and unwillingness to surrender until a genuine, positive difference is made that convinced Howland Adult Services Librarian, Alison Herrero, that a play about Du Bois’ life needed to be staged.
“Brian (Richardson) approached me, and I know Du Bois is one of our great Americans,” said Herrero. “He is worth learning about, and not all know his full life accomplishments.”
After seeing Richardson’s comprehensive rendition of Du Bois life, guests were no doubt left in the know.
“We cannot let his words die, as they are needed more than ever,” explained Richardson. “No matter where the performance takes place, we give it the same attention and commitment; the message is the same.”
To learn more about this show or the Pulse Ensemble Theatre, you can call them at: (212) 695-1596 or log on to their website: www.pulseensembletheatre.org.