Not A Genuine Black Man, a poignant rear-view look at 1970s San Leandro, wraps up a seven-year, nationwide run this month with three final performances at the Marsh Theatre in Berkeley.
The play, written and performed by Bay Area radio and television personality Brian Copeland, captures a slice of San Leandro history some would like to forget. In 1971, the city was named one of the most racist suburbs in America. The next year, then 8-year-old Copeland and his African-American family moved to San Leandro. Copeland’s experience growing up amid this cultural tension provides the backdrop for his monologue.
It was initially slated for only a six-week run at the Marsh Theatre (sister to the Berkeley venue) in San Francisco in April, 2004, but the play caught the imagination of the country. Since then, Copeland has performed it nearly 700 times around the nation, including 100 shows off-Broadway in the summer of 2006. He has also written a popular book by the same name. The book has become part of the curriculum of many high school and college classes.
Although the play’s run before the general public is coming to a close this month, Copeland will continue to perform it periodically during training seminars for mental health professionals under the auspices of the California Board of Behavioral Sciences.
Performer remains rooted to the community
A San Leandro resident for 40 years, Copeland’s affection for the city runs deep. He has performed his play numerous times to benefit local non-profit organizations. Some of the groups who have received funds from these performances are the , the , the , and the San Leandro Historical Society.
Copeland said he loves living in San Leandro and appreciates the richness of the city's culture today. "I never dreamed this community would one day become so diverse," he said.
New play in the works
He has now written a new play called The Waiting Period, which enters its pre-production phase this fall and will have its Bay Area premiere in January. Like Copeland's first memoir, this piece delves into highly charged emotional territory. This time, depression.
“My impetus for writing it,” said Copeland, “was when I heard about a 15-year-old young man who struggled with that demon of depression and took his life.”
He said the new play is a universal story to which people can relate. One of its take-away messages, he said, is that we’re not all alone and we’re not all that different.
David Hines, Copeland’s long-time production manager, will continue on to help guide this upcoming project. The play's performance dates and times will be announced on Copeland’s website and in the press.
Copeland's media work continues to expand
In addition to preparing to launch The Waiting Period, Copeland continues to host a weekday television show, 7-Live, from 3 to 4 p.m. on KGO TV. The Bay Area live talk-show just celebrated its first anniversary.
Not A Genuine Black Man Final Performance Tickets
The last public performances of Copeland’s current play will be at the Marsh Theatre in Berkeley on Saturday, Sept. 17 at 5 p.m.; Thursday, Sept. 22, at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, Sept. 24 at 5 p.m. Tickets can be ordered online here.