Go 'Underground' At The Vortex
"Underground is a play that's been in my consciousness for many years," says playwright Lisa B. Thompson. "I lived in Los Angeles during the uprising-slash-riots for Rodney King. I also lived in upstate New York during 9/11... and all that's been brewing in my consciousness for quite a long time."
"It began with a woman at the center," Thompson says. "She's now just a name in the play -- the men took over, and I was happy to let them. I've been writing it for some time and the characters announced themselves quite strongly." As Underground took shape in Thompson's mind, the work came to be about two men -- Kyle and Mason -- who reunite decades after meeting in college.
Marc Pouhé plays Kyle. "At the start of the story... he's the head of the BSA, the Black Students' Association, on campus, and he takes Mason under his wing. But they have different beginnings and different... I don't want to say endings, but different where-we-end-up-meeting-them in this story."
In middle age, Mason has become a corporate attorney and Kyle has become, depending on whom you ask, either an activist or a domestic terrorist. "They have different views on how to help and save the black community," says Pouhé. "Through the ballot, through economic means, through non-violence, through violence... those are all questions on the spectrum that we're tackling."
Director Rudy Ramirez likens Kyle and Mason's relationship to a chess game. "In chess, you're often setting up the board in the first few moves... you're setting these defensive strategies," he says. "But then eventually you get to the point where this endgame starts happening and things start moving quicker and the moves become much more calculated."