An Octoroon Tackles Race at Capital Stage

by Chris Narloch

I have heard nothing but great things about An Octoroon, the current production at Sacramento’s Capital Stage, and I will be making a beeline for that theater just as soon as we put this edition of Outword to bed.

A 2014 Obie Award Winner for Best New Play, An Octoroon was written by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins and is an adaptation of Dion Boucicault’s An Octoroon, which premiered in 1859.



(An octoroon is defined as a person having one-eighth black ancestry, with one black great-grandparent.)

The original play is a melodrama about slavery in America written by an Irishman. The adaptation reframes Boucicault’s play using its original characters and plot, speaking much of Boucicault’s dialogue, and critiques its portrayal of race, using Brechtian elements such as actors wearing blackface, whiteface, and redface.

As the play begins, Judge Peyton is dead and his plantation Terrebonne is in financial ruins. Peyton’s handsome nephew George arrives as heir apparent and quickly falls in love with Zoe, a beautiful octoroon. But the evil overseer M’Closky has other plans — for both Terrebonne and Zoe.

An Octoroon is directed by Judith Moreland and plays at Capital Stage through October 1st. Visit www.capstage.org.

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