Boston theater artist Phaedra Scott won’t soon forget Nov. 22, 2014. That’s the night Cleveland police shot and killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice while he was holding a replica gun in a city park. At the time, she lived on the street where Rice was shot. “I was scared, frustrated, but I craved an outlet to do something.”
More than a year after moving to Boston, she’s found one outlet in Every 28 Hours, a free performance of 80 one-minute plays coming to the Museum of Fine Arts’ Remis Auditorium at 2 pm on Nov. 5. Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, it takes its title from the widely shared and contested claim that a black person is killed every 28 hours in the U.S. by a vigilante, security guard or police officer. Scott, who works at Company One Theatre, is helping to produce the Boston performance of the project, which was initiated by artists from the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and the One-Minute Play Festival. Originally staged in St. Louis and Ferguson, the project expanded to performances across the nation this fall.
“This play serves as a response to the injustices we see committed by law enforcement against black people. What we were drawn to is the scope of experiences the play encompasses,” Scott says. “There are plays devoted to the police perspective, plays about youth, mothers and people who fall in the intersections of ability, queerness and all races—not just black and white.”
To perform plays that encompass all those perspectives and nine different themes, Scott tapped not only Company One, but four other local companies, including Harvard’s black student theater group, Black CAST, and the LGBT-focused Theatre Offensive. The 90-minute show is being presented in conjunction with the MFA’s Political Intent exhibit, and the ultimate goal is to spark a conversation within the local community.
“We wanted to perform the play in a space that welcomed our collaborators, but also a space where we could have substantial engagement with our audience afterward,” Scott says. “What actionable steps can we take? How can we work together? How can we respond as a community, and as individuals? How can we respond through art?”