Excited chatter fills the Front Bar lobby packed with the Friday night crowd of theater-goers who’ve all come to see the latest Congo Square Theatre Company production, How Blood Go.
I file behind couples and groups of friends to quickly locate a seat in the center of the theater, second level to be exact. The theater is very intimate with honestly “no bad” view in the house. A feature that makes you feel as if you are a cast member versus another onlooker with a ticket. As I settle into my seat, I can see that the stage is already set. In the center is an old, metal, prep table that you would find in a hospital operating room, behind it are two dull, blue curtains. It’s ominous, heavy even, which is a complete contradiction to the energetic and soulful hip-hop tunes that pour through the speakers before while we wait for the play to begin.
Health disparities amongst Black people are a serious thing. Just Google the topic and you’ll find an astronomical amount of articles highlighting the various systematic issues within the health system pertaining solely to Africans. As a Black woman, the stats are both frightening, frustrating, and nothing new.
How Blood Go is a new work by award-winning playwright Lisa Langford that seeks to address this topic. The dual-pathed storyline focuses on Quinntasia(Jyreika Guest) a young, black woman who is ready to take her wellness program, Quinntessentials, to market. During her journey, Quinntasia learns that her healthy body is not the product of her hard work, but of a futuristic experimental device—activated without her consent—that makes her appear as a White woman to doctors and nurses. She must decide if she’s willing to give up her Blackness to make her dream come true. Along with Bean(David Dowd) and his brother, Ace(Ronald L. Conner) who experience unethical medical treatment in the American South during the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiments.
How Blood Go does an excellent job lightly, bringing to light the very serious topic of health disparities and neglect towards African-Americans. For the main characters of this play, the generational neglect within the healthcare system challenges their relationships, financial opportunities, and the future of their legacies. From the cast to the stage, every moment of this play was carefully used to explore the strained relationship between the healthcare system and African Americans in this country. And, even though healthcare in this country is not a laughing matter, culturally, we somehow find humor in the struggle. This play is a reminder to African-Americans that we can advocate for ourselves in the skin that we are in, and that we do not have to suffer in silence or be complacent without complaining.
During the show’s duration at Steppenwolf Theater, the ensemble will also host community events like the Celebration of Healing, a curated space for individual and community healing that provides access to resources, information, and practical tools for wellness. There will be health fairs, documentary screenings, a webinar series in partnership with Public Narrative, and Talk Forwards panel discussions following select shows.
Tickets for How Blood Go are on sale now through Sunday, April 23, For more information about the Celebration of Healing events visit this link.