‘Superheroes,’ which Donald Lacy calls ‘the most important play written in the last 25 years,’ runs Nov. 21-Dec. 21 at the Cutting Ball Theater, 277 Taylor St., San Francisco
by The People’s Minister of Information JR
There has been a flood of new interest in the journalism of the late Gary Webb since the theater release of “Kill the Messenger,” which is a biopic of the life of the reporter who uncovered the CIA selling cocaine in the Bay Area and in Los Angeles’ Black neighborhoods to fund counter revolutions in El Salvador and Nicaragua, under Reagan and Bush I.
The film falls miles short of what was needed. Webb’s marital infidelity took up too much time in a movie with such a historically crucial plot, which has never been explored in a serious manner on the silver screen. Although Webb uncovered the facts and the players in his ‘96 series of San Jose Mercury News articles called “Dark Alliance,” it has long been known that the U.S. government is the biggest drug dealer in the Black community, since at least the time of the Vietnam War.
With the film being so bad, it looks like somebody in the shadows hopes to kill the curiosity of future generations into the topic by cinematically minimalizing the profound negative impact that the international U.S. government cocaine production ring had on millions of Black and Brown people the world over.
Thespian Donald Lacy is one of the stars of the new play “Superheroes,” which starts today and will run through Dec. 21. “Superheroes” looks at the cocaine era in U.S. history from the perspective of a series of people interlocked in the scheme, or the uncovering of it.
This is important because although Gary Webb was “suicided” with two gunshot wounds to the head, he was one of millions whose lives were ground up so that the U.S. government could fight secret wars against people’s movements in other countries off the books, with the top criminals responsible being granted lifelong impunity among other perks, including becoming president of the United States.
The community needs more theater that speaks to our history to give us a better understanding of where we have been in the context of surviving multiple genocide attempts by the U.S. government within the relatively short life span of this country. Check out renaissance man Donald Lacy, the father, journalist, activist, comedian, thespian and so much more as he speaks on Gary Webb and “Superheroes” …
M.O.I. JR: Can you talk a little bit about the interview you conducted with Gary Webb? When and where did you do it?
Donald Lacy: The interview I did with Gary Webb was done in June of 2004 at the Jahva House, which was owned by D’Wayne Wiggins. For over a year, we broadcast live from the Jahva House my Saturday morning Wake Up Everybody program which is heard every week on KPOO 89.5 FM.
There were about 50 people present when I interviewed Gary Webb. It lasted for close to an hour. The writer and director for “Superheroes,” Sean San Jose, was there for the Gary Webb interview and he said to me, “We need to put this story on the stage.”
He started working on a draft then, and after work shopping the script over the years he finally came up with a draft that will premiere for the world this month. I think what we will create onstage will literally blow people’s minds. I am excited to see how audiences respond. One thing for sure, when you see this play, you will be affected in a profound way.
“We need to put this story on the stage.”
M.O.I. JR: Why is Gary Webb important to U.S. history?
Donald Lacy: He is important because what he uncovered has affected the Black community for generations to come. Millions of lives have been affected negatively by the CIA and the U.S. government distributing crack cocaine in the Black community.
The prison Industrial complex was built on the crack cocaine explosion. And I will add Gary Webb stumbled on this story. It found him.
He told me he was investigating government drug seizures of property, cars etc. and the dots started connecting to U.S. government involvement in distributing cocaine to the Black community, in exchange for monies to fund the contras in Nicaragua.
He is a true American hero who gave his life for the truth. The LA Times and the Washington Post went out of their way to discredit Webb. The San Jose Mercury, which first stood behind his story, deserted him and left him out to dry.
He was forced to resign, and was white-listed from ever working again at a major newspaper. He ended up being broke, and his wife left him, and he was then murdered. I refuse to believe that he committed suicide with two gunshot wounds in the head.
How many reporters these days would put their life on the line for the truth? Not many. The government tried to deny the charges for years, but recently an ex-CIA official admitted that most of what Webb alleged is true. Which to me means everything he alleged is true.
M.O.I. JR: Can you tell us the name and plot of this new play that you are in?
Donald Lacy: The name of the play is “Superheroes,” written and directed by Sean San Jose. The story is fictional, but it’s based on the facts that Webb uncovered.
The play focuses on characters who are directly involved in the crack cocaine alliance from the Nicaraguan side and the American side. A Black female is the symbolic figure who represents the Gary Webb character, if you will. She, like Webb, is murdered for uncovering the truth, and it is made to look like a suicide.
The show is told in a very poetic fashion with music and dancing; there is even some humor. There is no intermission. It is an 80-minute ride that will leave people breathless at the end.
In my 31 years of professional theater, I have never experienced something like this. Sean has channeled the spirits of all the ancestors who were killed and affected by this horrible chapter in our history.
The cast is amazing and we are all pouring our hearts out every time we step on stage. The other cast members include Juan Amador aka Wonway Possible as Bayuncoso, who is the big Nicaraguan connection. Ricky Saenz plays Nico, an immigrant who gets caught up in the drug trade.
My homey Myers Clark plays Free, who is symbolic of the freeway Rick Ross character. Britney Frazier plays the girlfriend of Free and gives the story of the U.S. CIA involvement to the reporter. Delina Patrice Brooks plays Aparecida, the Black women reporter who uncovers the truth.
Sean has channeled the spirits of all the ancestors who were killed and affected by this horrible chapter in our history. The cast is amazing and we are all pouring our hearts out every time we step on stage.
M.O.I. JR: What character do you play?
Donald Lacy: I play a pastor who lets dope dealers sell cocaine to the people in his church. He even starts using himself and smokes the pipe before he goes into the church to preach.
It is a deep, complex character who is tempted by the devil while praising God. He is in a constant struggle for his soul, and falls down but eventually overcomes the demons that have taken him over. He is also given the responsibility of telling the story that the reporter uncovers before she is murdered.
I think my character is symbolic of the good and evil that resides in all of us, the yin and yang. We all have the potential to be incredibly good and horribly bad. The point my character makes is that crack destroys our moral compass and we will do literally anything for another hit.
Like the song by the Temptations, “One drag – that’s all it took; ooh, I’m hooked.” The Rev eventually picks up the baton after Aparecida is murdered and is committed to telling her story that she has uncovered and getting the truth out.
M.O.I. JR: Why did you get involved with a play that dealt in part with the plight of Gary Webb?
Donald Lacy: I got involved because to me this is the most important play written in the last 25 years, especially as it relates to the Black community. Other than slavery, this crack cocaine dealing by the U.S. government was the worst thing that America has ever done to Black people.
I work with at risk youth, and I have seen things I thought I would never live to see. Mothers pimping out their 12-year-old daughters to get crack. Grandmothers turning out their own daughters to get crack. A woman giving birth to twins while hitting the pipe and let them perish on the floor of her apartment because she wanted to keep hitting that pipe.
The strongest instinct in all of nature is for a mother to nourish and protect her offspring. Crack cocaine has made mothers sacrifice their own flesh and blood just to keep getting high. The U.S. needs to own up to its dirty deeds and be held accountable for what it has done to our people.
Other than slavery, this crack cocaine dealing by the U.S. government was the worst thing that America has ever done to Black people.
M.O.I. JR: How does the play deal with the millions of Black and Brown lives that were devastated by the government importing cocaine into the country?
Donald Lacy: It deals directly with that. In fact there are only Black and Brown people in the play onstage, and the beauty of the play is it deals with the devastation that Black and Brown communities have endured as a result of this dark alliance.
It also looks at the AIDS epidemic and how that has affected millions of Black and Brown lives. This play is about our people, the most disenfranchised people who are on the outskirts of society.
I am proud and honored to be a part of this production and I hope our people will come and hear the truth about what really happened and continues to happen to us.
M.O.I. JR: What do you hope people will get out of this play?
Donald Lacy: It is my sincere hope that people will talk about this play and, more importantly, about what the U.S. government did and continues to do to us. I will, as long as there is breath in my body, tell people about this story.
I hope we as a community rise up and demand justice for all of the millions of Black and Brown lives that have been destroyed by what the CIA and U.S. has done. We need to revisit hearings on Capitol Hill and demand that people are made to answer for this grave injustice – and be held accountable.
As Bob Marley says in his song, “We and Dem”: “Someone will have to pay for the innocent blood that they shed every day. People, mark my word. It’s what the Bible say.”
I will, as long as there is breath in my body, tell people about this story. I hope we as a community rise up and demand justice for all of the millions of Black and Brown lives that have been destroyed by what the CIA and U.S. has done.
M.O.I. JR: What is the difference between the character that you play in this production and the one that you play in “Color Struck”?
Donald Lacy: Totally different. In “Color Struck” I play myself and my family members and friends. In “Color Struck,” I talk about my real life experiences with race and racism.
In this play, I play a fictional character who for a time is hooked on crack. Although I never was hooked on crack, I did try powder cocaine and I can remember what that high was like. It was a bad period in my life, and I thank God that I was delivered from that poison.
I had a relationship on and off with cocaine in the late ‘80s, early ‘90s for about three years. I woke up one morning and I clearly remember that my first thought was, “Where is my blow?”
After opening the package, I heard the voice of the creator tell me, “If you hit it again, your heart will explode.” I immediately flushed an eight ball down the toilet and never snorted it ever again. I was tempted many times, but I stopped doing it. That was over 22 years ago.
M.O.I. JR: How do people keep up with you online?
Donald Lacy: First of all, JR, I want to thank you for your continuing support of me and my work over the years; it is greatly appreciated. I also want to commend you for being a voice for our community who never pulls any punches when it comes to speaking truth to power. I love you for your commitment to justice for our people.
I encourage my community to come see this show. It is at the Cutting Ball Theater, which is located at 277 Taylor St. in San Francisco. The show runs Nov. 21-Dec. 21, and the tickets are very affordable. They even have pay-what-you-can nights. (See http://cuttingball.com/season/14-15/superheroes/ for details.)
The theater is intimate, so there are limited tickets available. You can get your tickets by going to www.cuttingball.com or by calling 415-525-1205. Curtains are 7:30 p.m. for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday performances, 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, plus matinees at 2 p.m. on Saturday and 5 p.m. on Sunday. Find last minute discounts to select performances on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/CuttingBall or on Twitter @Cuttingball.
I can be reached at email@example.com or on Facebook, Donald Lacy and Lacy Donald, or on Twitter @donaldelacyjr.
The People’s Minister of Information JR Valrey is associate editor of the Bay View, author of “Block Reportin’” and “Unfinished Business: Block Reportin’ 2” and filmmaker of “Operation Small Axe” and “Block Reportin’ 101,” available, along with many more interviews, at www.blockreportradio.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.