SPOOK by Meshaun Labrone, AFO's next SoCo.
How did the idea for the piece first spark in your mind?
ML: One of my first partners on the police departments had an argument with family members at his home. He became so upset, he grabbed his gun and put the gun to his head and pulled the trigger. Thankfully, he survived but that incident haunted me. What if his break down happened at work? What if he would have pulled the gun on me and himself? This was someone you would never expect to do something like that. The incident made me want to give voice to the officers that don’t have the ability to voice their frustration, pain and stress that they encounter as a police officer.
Why is this an important story for audiences to hear?
ML: I don’t like this “us” and “them” idea that we are seeing in the country when it comes to police. As an officer, I was called all kinds of names by black and white people. They saw me in the uniform and immediately saw me as the “enemy”. They didn’t know that I was fighting for them against the criminals in the neighborhood and the racists and unfair practices by some of the supervisors and fellow officers on the department. They aren’t seeing the retaliation that is handed down by some supervisors in these police departments. The documentary, ‘Crime +Punishment”, has done a good job of showing you what happens to officers that speak out against what is wrong. All officers receive backlash when they speak up for justice but its twice as bad for black officers.
What has the creative journey of the piece been like so far?
ML: The journey has been a rollercoaster. Reflecting back on my time as a Corrections officer and Police Officer, sometimes I wonder was that really me? Experiencing the violence that people can unleash on each other. Speaking to officers that are still in the “trenches” dedicating their life to keep the public safe, you walk away with mixed emotions. You love the profession but when you see people that where the uniform, who were sworn to protect and serve, yet they show themselves to be criminals and terrorists, it just leaves me full of anger. It’s caused me to suffer from nightmares but I’ve always suffered from bad dreams.
What is the most challenging thing about the piece for you as an artist? What is the most rewarding?
ML: For most of the production, I’m seated in my death chair. To keep the audience engaged takes a tremendous amount of focus. With that challenge, when executed properly, the most rewarding part is the audience listening. With them deeply listening, they get the play. I love it when they get the play! It means, I did my job!
Why is solo work, and the art of the solo narrative valuable?
ML: It is valuable because we are storytellers. Whether we are in film, television or on stage, we are storytellers. It also sharpens the artist. To be in control of every aspect of the production, (writing, lighting, sound etc.) you learn what it means to produce and find out other practical skills you never thought you had. When I did my first solo project in college, I didn’t think I could write a script. Now, I’m beginning to have as much joy, if not more, as a writer.
Anything else you'd like us to know about the piece before we see it?
ML: Come with an open heart and mind. Come ready to sit on the edge of your seat and be ready with your questions after the show. This show will be talked about for a long time among the NYC theatre community.
An interview by Lana Russell with SoCo Artist, Meshaun Labrone
Click for more on SPOOK:
"As a performer, Labrone is a gale-force presence, raging and brooding as the play’s protagonist but also conjuring vivid subsidiary characters, such as the adolescent dog-poisoner." -Washington Post
"I’ll cut to the chase: Meshaun Labrone’s Spook is an indelible drama of morals that will blow you away."