The Tracy Performing Arts Foundation’s play “Being Black in Tracy” — directed by Barrett — debuts Saturday in the Studio Theatre at the Grand Theatre Center for the Arts, 715 Central Ave.
Barrett, 48, has been a professional storyteller for 11 years, and he has concentrated on bringing the play to the stage since he received it in 2004 from the playwright, former City Councilwoman Evelyn Tolbert.
“I thought it was a great opportunity right off the bat,” Barrett said. “Being able to get the actors to bring to life the play, meeting oral history which is a folk art with the theater which is fine art and bringing that out so people can really see these living vessels of history talk about their experiences here in Tracy.”
Tolbert’s play is based on an oral history project she created with the Tracy African American Association.
She interviewed black people living in Tracy in 1996 and again in 2004 to get their views of the black community.
The completed oral history project was given to the Tracy Historical Museum for visitors to enjoy. Tolbert wrote the play nine years ago so the stories would be heard.
“I had not intended to write a play, it just sat there for years,” Tolbert said. “After a few years, I realized people were not going in (to the museum) to listen to it.”
Barrett said that when Tolbert wrote the play, she asked him to direct it.
“I think the main reason she picked me is my storytelling — everything I do is cultural and has a cultural connection, and I have a unique way of talking to people about different cultures,” he said.
Barrett’s vision of the play changed through the years. With the remodeled Grand Theatre, he knew he had the right venue to tell the story.
The five-act play features eight actors recounting stories in a different time period in Tracy’s history, touching on topics including why they came to Tracy and their perception of racism in the city.
“It’s not a play for just black people to come and see, it’s a play for everyone to enjoy and learn some history of Tracy,” Barrett said.
Raychelle Williams, 39, will take on her first oral history performance role, portraying a 74-year-old woman recounting her memories.
“I learned a lot about Tracy and how black people were treated here,” she said. “I think it’s important that someone tells that story so kids don’t take things for granted.”
The play is being performed at 8 p.m. Saturday, March 9, at 2 p.m. Sunday, March 10, and at 8 p.m. Friday, March 15, and March 16.
Tickets, $14, are available through the Grand Theatre ticket office or www.atthegrand.org.
• Contact Glenn Moore at 835-3030 or firstname.lastname@example.org.