An Octoroon: Modern Commentary on Race

by on March 3, 2015

Photo credit: Pavel Antonov

It’s not a long shot to say that race is quite possibly the issue at the forefront of conversation in the US agenda. More specifically, the inequality experienced by minorities and people of color has its daily mention in the media and is typically (and unfortunately) recognizable in the day to day. But the more deeply ingrained attitudes that America has cultivated—subconsciously or not—over the last few centuries is a hard nut to crack: why are certain prejudices still so pervasive in American culture? And why are there still so many holes in our vocabulary to discuss race issues?

A look to the past in a rendition of “An Octoroon,” written by Irish playwright Dion Boucicault in 1859, helps bring the point to the surface. Despite the, at times, over-the-top telling of a plantation owner and the slave he falls in love with, the audience can certainly see one thing clearly: not all that much has changed in 150 years.

One thing of note: an “octoroon” is a person whose ancestry is one-eighth black. Within the faulty system that is linguistics, words and phrasing become outdated, or eventually contradict themselves. History has a tendency to repeat itself. For how can we look forward to a future of answers and clarity if we don’t first look behind us at the mistakes and triumphs and really-left-field decisions that end up in the history books? In a time of hostility, sometimes a theatrical reminder of where we’ve come from and where we can go serves a grand purpose.

For tickets to Soho Rep.’s An Octoroon, click here.