The power of love has been the muse for countless ideas — songs, paintings and in this case a collective — one where Black people can come together, build, and tell their own stories.
Creative powerhouses, partners-in-life, and Black Love Doc alums Richard Lawson and Tina Knowles-Lawson formed the WACO (Where Art Can Occur) Theater Center to serve as a catalyst for change in the community. What started as a separate vision between the pair, has transformed into a reality over the past two years.
Richard and Tina are no strangers to the impact of the arts and the power it has to entertain, empower and heal the Black community, and in today’s environment they feel it’s necessary.
“A time that requires we deepen our responsibility to ensuring the arts are truly reflective of the transformation taking place within our nation.” – The Knowles-Lawsons
Located in the heart of North Hollywood, the WACO Theater brings beautiful minds together to produce work that not only reflects the time but pays homage to work that has helped define and tell the story of the true Black experience.
We recently had the chance to attend their latest endeavor, No Place to Be Somebody. The 1969 play was originally written by playwright Charles Gordone who was the first African-American to receive a Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1970. This time around, it’s being directed by Richard, who also plays one of the lead characters, Sweets. The play is a rugged but authentic depiction of the migration of Blacks into the big city in hopes of obtaining their idea of prosperity – only to be disappointed in the end. Which in this case ended in despair, and ultimately death.
The story is based in the Civil Rights era, but it’s still as relevant in 2019 as it was in 1969. Bar owner and pimp, Johnny, wants to take down the white Mafia that runs his neighborhood and he’s solely depending on the only father figure he knows, Sweets, to give him the support once he returns from prison. When Sweets gets out though, he has no interest in the game anymore and Johnny realizes he has to go at it alone, and it doesn’t go too well.
The subplots involve Black and White characters who all have their own dreams and do whatever they can to accomplish them. They all seem to have an undeniable love for Johnny but are often met with his rage and inability to truly love others. Most noteworthy is writer and actor, Gabe, who would just like his life to work out in his favor. He periodically views the story from a peripheral perspective and often begins and sometimes ends each act with some of its most poetic speeches.
Johnny constantly battles his own demons throughout the play while trying to become his own version of success. But this is exactly what Ms. Tina and Richard want us to understand. That in order to truly be successful – it starts with realizing who we really are as not only individuals but as a culture.
“No longer can we simply hold up a mirror to witness a narrow view of who we are — we must recognize our expansive reality and reflect it back into the world and influence who we become.” – The Knowles-Lawsons
Their love bridged the gap between an idea and reality thus creating the groundwork for something bigger than themselves. They produced this space for the community to be able to tell their stories in the way only we know how to tell them.
“No Place To Be Somebody” will be performing their final show at the WACO Theater tonight, March 9th. Visit their site to check it out!