Sit backâ€”or on the edge of your seatâ€”and witness the Brown Bomber and Max Schmeling face off for the second time, as history is relived this month at InfinithéÃ¢tre.
Playwright David Sherman’s Joe Louis: An American Romance opened last night at Bain St-Michel, and runs until February 20. Arriving just in time for Black History Month, the play focuses on the American boxer Joe Louis, one of the most influential figures not only in Black history, not only in sports history, but arguably in the last century.
“Joe Louis is a fascinating story. [He was] the first African American super hero,” says Sherman. “At the time of the play, or the time that the play centers around, there were probably only a few black people anybody knew, like Louie Armstrong, Jesse Owens. Joe Louis transcended all meaning, he transcended all cultural endeavours, he was a super hero as an icon of black ambitions. He was a superhero not just to sports fans but to black people everywhere, who saw him as a symbol of emancipationâ€¦all at the age of 22.”
The year is 1938 and the theatre has been transformed into a boxing arena; the stage, a ring. The play centers around Joe Louis’s second fight with Max Schmeling, a fight that was listened to by millions of people at a time when household television did not exist and radio had only just become popular.
“So the stage was set for something that was promised to be larger than life,” Sherman explains. “This wasn’t going to be a boxing match; this was going to be the first battle of the war between the United States and democracy determining fascism.”
You can expect a stimulating experience from this multimedia performance. Not only is the audience treated to an innovative set design, but Sherman and director Guy Spring incorporate sound effects, videos, original music by Montreal based composer Keith Thomas and archival footage of Joe Louis.
The play stays true to the historical moment it’s derived from, and the historical figures it focuses on. “I’d say there’s about 100% fact and 100% fiction. I mean we always have to take liberties, but there’s a lot of fact; a lot of the words that the actors speakâ€¦is taken from research material. And a lot of it is fictionalized because you have 90 minutes to compress [it]. It’s my interpretation of history, let’s put it that way.”
Coming from an extensive career in newspapers, David Sherman turned to play writing around 6 years ago. Joe Louis: An American Romance is Sherman’s second play directed by Guy Sprung. He is currently playwright-in-residence at InfinithéÃ¢tre, where he is working closely with Sprung on another play for next year.
The play runs Tuesday Saturdays, 8pm and Sundays, 2pm at Bain St-Michel (5300 St-Dominique) until February 20.
For ticket information visit http://www.infinitheatre.com or phone 514-987-1774, ext 104.
Poster courtesy of: infinitheatre.com
Photos by: Chris Zacchia