Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe Premieres Timely Video Production of Pipeline

Arts & Culture

Pictured: The cast of ‘Pipeline’ is (from l-r) Joel PE King, Emilia Sargent, Renata Eastlick, Donovan Whitney, Isaac Esau Gay and Emerald Rose Sullivan. Photo by Sorcha Augustine.

Nate Jacobs remembers sitting inside his grandmother’s home in Daytona when his father pulled up to the house. His father had driven up from Tampa like he did many times throughout the school year, and in this case, it was to watch Jacobs graduate. Jacobs remembers his mother uttering something snarky at the sight of his father, then turning to her children and seeing in their faces an untarnished admiration, nonetheless. “It was at that point that my mother realized no matter what she says or does, my siblings and I loved our father,” says Jacobs.

It was this moment that came to mind when he watched the first full rehearsal of Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe’s production of “Pipeline,” where one scene in particular brought him to tears.

Written by Dominique Morisseau, recipient of a 2018 MacArthur Fellowship, the play explores a hardworking mother’s efforts to ensure her Black son has opportunities most of his peers do not. When the son’s father reemerges in his life, the son must confront his rage and confusion. In that relationship, Jacobs saw something deeply personal and timely. “Morisseau captured a glimpse into that mysterious relationship between a Black man and his father,” says Jacobs, “and really grapples with the questions of why we have so many angry Black boys running around the neighborhood.”

With full in-theatre seating still months away, the play’s timeliness also comes from the fact that it will premiere as a video production. Using three cameras, director L. Peter Callender hopes to capture the stage production on camera for WBTT’s socially distanced outdoor screening and for its on-demand stream for at-home viewers. “I know I have three cameras; center, left and right,” says Callender, “so my direction has to account for more views. I’ve had to think as a stage director, an actor, a film director and a tv director.”

All five sets will be on stage at the same time, with actors moving in and out of them as the story unfolds. The whole production requires a high degree of coordination and practice, almost like a sitcom filmed in front of a live studio audience. “But in the end, I want it to feel like it’s a play that you’re eavesdropping on,” says Callender, “so the audience will see the other set pieces in the distance. We want it to feel like it’s taking place in a theatre.”

With all of that effort in coordinating a successful shoot, Callender hopes the production lives up to the weight of the play’s themes, themes that struck Jacobs during rehearsals. “So many Black and brown boys are literally being thrown away because they have strikes against them,” says Callender, “and we hope this play will touch hearts and be a topic of conversation for our audience.”

The in-person outdoor screenings run Saturday, April 24 through Friday, April 30. Access to purchase the stream opens Saturday, May 1.

Pictured: The cast of ‘Pipeline’ is (from l-r) Joel PE King, Emilia Sargent, Renata Eastlick, Donovan Whitney, Isaac Esau Gay and Emerald Rose Sullivan. Photo by Sorcha Augustine.

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