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‘Black and Blue’ production recreates Ferguson unrest, sheds light on police and community relations

Gitana Productions

As soon as Cecilia Nadal of Gitana Productions heard about the killing of Michael Brown, she went straight to Ferguson and participated in the protests in an effort to understand what had happened. In the process, she discovered many stories that she wanted to tell so she enlisted the help of playwright Lee Patton Chiles. The result is the play “Black and Blue” which examines the complex relationship between police and African-American communities.

“As soon as Michael Brown was killed and when the protests began, I was out there for two weeks daily trying to figure out what happened, who was involved and what people were feeling,” Nadal said.

Nadal explained that at the time, she did not know that “Black and Blue” would derive from events happening in Ferguson. Now that it has, her goal is to present the events in a balanced way that will contribute to peace, harmony, and justice.

Valeri Felix, a student, activist and actor in “Black and Blue,” said she convinced her mother to allow her to participate in the protests along with her. What she did not know at the time was that she would appear in a play depicting the events.

Lee Patton Chiles, left, and Cecilia Nadal
Credit Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio
Lee Patton Chiles, left, and Cecilia Nadal

“When [the shooting] first happened, I felt like ‘What if that was my brother?’ and it just drew me towards the protesting,” Felix said. “I talked my mom into letting me go and protest with her, and I grew to love it from there.”

Lee Patton Chiles, director and playwright of “Black and Blue,” did not participate in the protests, but had knowledge of what was going on. Nadal had initially asked her to write a different play, but once the unrest began in Ferguson, she requested that Chiles change the topic.

“I saw a great deal of constructive energy, emotion and anger being expressed by the protesters that I was with,” Nadal said.

Although the protests became an important aspect of the play, Chiles explained that gathering insight from police officers’ point-of-view was also significant, yet difficult. “Getting [police participation] was the hard part,” she said. “I did not want to criticize them; I just wanted to hear their story. We finally were able to get [officers] to talk, but it took a longer time than it did with the protestors.”

Chiles gave little details about the rundown of the play, but mentioned that the opening act will be a scene of the shooting of Michael Brown.

Carolyn Moore, another actor in the play, decided to get involved as a way to promote positive change. Not having the adequate time to commit to a long-term organization, she saw the opportunity to be a part of the play as a means to get involved. “When I had some time open to do something, I thought this would be a good opportunity to start getting involved with this issue,” she explained.

Cecilia Nadal
Credit Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio
Cecilia Nadal

“I wanted to be involved with the play to show that there are always two sides to a story,” Felix added, “and that no matter how you feel, you should listen to both sides without any bias.”

Nadal hopes that those who attend the play will watch with the intent of understanding both sides of the issues, from the perspective of the police and from the perspective of the African-American community.

“If people walk out and say there really are two sides, or not presume guilt on either side and get to know the other party before making a statement,” Nadal explained, “if that happens, I would feel very good about that.”

Related Events:

Gitana Productions Presents Lee Patton Chiles' "Black and Blue"

  • When: May 22 and 23, 7:30 p.m.; May 24, 3 p.m.
  • Where: Missouri History Museum, Lindell & DeBaliviere in Forest Park

Gitana Productions Presents Lee Patton Chiles' "Black and Blue"

  • When: May 29 and 30, 7:30 p.m.; May 31, 2015, 3 p.m.
  • Where: Kranzberg Arts Center, 501 N. Grand at Olive

Gitana Productions Presents Lee Patton Chiles' "Black and Blue"

  • When: June 7, 3 p.m.
  • Where: Greater St. Mark Family Church, 9950 Glen Owen, Ferguson, MO 63136

Gitana Productions Presents Lee Patton Chiles' "Black and Blue"

  • When: June 19 and 20, 7:30 p.m.; June 21, 3 p.m.
  • Where: St. Louis Community College at Florissant Valley's Terry M. Fischer Theater, 3400 Pershall Rd. St. Louis, MO 63135
  • More information

St. Louis on the Air discusses issues and concerns facing the St. Louis area. The show is produced by Mary Edwards and Alex Heuer and hosted by veteran journalist Don Marsh. Follow us on Twitter: @STLonAir.

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