Sometimes, updating a source text to keep a theatrical production is crucial to keep things up to speed with current events. For Every 28 Hours — a collaboration among the American Conservatory Theater, Berkeley Rep, FaultLine, Lorraine Hansberry Theatre, Crowded Fire Theater, and Campo Santo — that process takes on a grim cast. Influenced by the Black Lives Matter movement, this set of one-act plays expands on the statistic that virtually every day, an African-American is killed by the police.
“One of the pieces has the list of names of people who have been killed,” says Tyrone Davis, A.C.T.’s community artistic director. “Unfortunately, the names continue to come in.”
Tonight, Oct. 19, at 7 p.m., Berkeley Rep’s Osher Theatre will host a single-evening festival with excerpts from the larger work, while the full production will run at PianoFight from Oct. 21 through Nov. 12. Bringing together some 90 artists, it’s a significant undertaking, having begun at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
In terms of staging many one-act plays in rapid succession, though, Davis says “it’s not as challenging as you think, because it flows from one to another. They’re broken down into clumps, to police, community, protesting, the mothers that have to bury their children. When you break it down that way, it flows easier and it’s not so tough to stage.”
Eight actors share the roles among them, and because of the political urgency of the material, repetition is part of the dramatic effect.
Rose Oser, FaultLine’s co-artistic director, worked to bring a sense of immediacy, assembling — with the help of the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts — a set that flows into the audience.
“During the show we hear the names and we’ll see some of faces of people who’e been killed by law enforcement,” she says. “As a white person, I feel like the show is really accessible to white people, and theater in general helps inspire empathy — especially to people who don’t have people they’re necessarily talking to about this, about what Black people are going through.”
Davis concurs that raising awareness is key.
“I think theater’s a very powerful too,” he says. “I definitely want to bring awareness — when I mention Every 28 Hours, I usually hear ‘It’s not eight hours?’ It’s too often, that’s the point. We want to move forward and progress, see how we can get involved.”
“There’s a line in one of the plays, that this is nothing new,” he says. “It’s not just a Black issue. It’s an American issue, because it’s been going on a long time. It is an American problem.”
Every 28 Hours, Thursdays through Saturdays, Oct. 21-Nov. 12, 7:30 p.m., at PianoFight, 122 Taylor St., $5-$50, faultline.com.