top dog/underdog

Strange Fruit
10:00 am
Sat January 12, 2013

Strange Fruit: Top Dog/Underdog Explores Black Masculinity; Who Can Use Gay Slurs?

Brian Lee West and Keith McGill in Top Dog/Underdog

This week the Strange Fruit team got to sit in on a dress rehearsal of a local production of Suzan Lori-Parks' play, Top Dog/Underdog. The play looks at a pair of brothers whose dysfunctional relationship provides a framework for questions about family dynamics and what defines black masculinity.

We spoke with the play's cast, Brian Lee West and Keith McGill, about working on the piece, and how their own lived experiences informed the choices they made on stage. McGill portrays Lincoln, the play's older brother. "When [director] Kathi Ellis first approached me with this play," he explains, "I read it, and I went, 'Oh my god, that's my brother and me.'" 

He says the play mirrors the real relationships between brothers. "Once you're the younger brother you're always the younger brother. Once you're the older brother you're always the older brother, whatever happens. And in certain situations, you go right back to those roles."

West says the play forces you to think about what shapes our self-identities. "How do you define yourself as a black man? Is it how many women you have, is it holding a steady job, is it being able to get it over on The Man and prevailing?"

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