Seattle Repertory Theatre Presents: Brownsville Song (B-Side for Tray)

Seattle Repertory Theatre Presents: Brownsville Song (B-Side for Tray)

I would like to introduce you to Tray. Despite losing his father and his mother abandoning him as a child, he is doing just fine. He is working nights and weekends to support himself and save up for a car. He is an excellent boxer who is competing in the Golden Gloves competition. He also has the loving support of his quick witted Grandmother, Lena and sweet sister, Devine. The three of them live in Brownsville-a notoriously dangerous neighborhood located in east Brooklyn. Now, I know what you are thinking, “I’ve heard this story a million times. This is just like any other tale a kid from a bad neighborhood tries to rise above the crime and decay that surrounds him.” But let me assure you like Lena does the audience, he was not the same old story.

Kimber Lee’s Brownsville Song (B-side for Tray) opens with a monologue from Lena. She explains that Tray is dead. She begs and pleads that the story mustn’t start with her but rather with her beloved grandson. “Do not start with me. I am the end” she booms at the audience. During this performance the past, present and future smash into each other. A scene of Tray studying in his room is overlapped by his grandmother mourning him in the exact same room. This brilliant staging can be puzzling at times but it keeps the captivated audience asking “what is happening right now?” Although Tray’s fate is sealed and the story is out of order, we are given such a great perspective into his life. We see him care for and protect Devine. We see him playfully butt heads with his Grandmother. We see him give his mother, Merrell, a second chance not only in his life, but in her own. He allows Merrell to help him write his scholarship essays and even hires her at his work. Most importantly, we see Tray realize his potential to help others and that his existence reaches far beyond the streets of Brownsville. In the last scene of the play, Tray recites a college scholarship essay. A scholarship the audience already knows he was awarded but sadly, never could hold in his hands. You cannot help but be moved as he proudly belts to the audience, “This is not the end, only the beginning!”

What’s most amazing about this performance is that Tray really did exist. There really was a Tray of Brownsville, who was raised by his Grandmother and lost his parents at a young age. He really did dream of going to college and becoming a Golden Gloves Champion. He really was a good kid who had discipline and worked hard, inside and outside of the ring. And he really was murdered in a mass shooting in July, 2013. He is the inspiration for author, Kimber Lee’s work. Because of Brownsville Song (B-side for Tray) good, innocent people like Tray will not be forgotten and written off as just another killing in a dangerous neighborhood. Like Lena said, He was not the same old story. Through this fantastic play we celebrate not only Tray’s life but all young men and women who left the world too soon.

Brownsville Song (B-side for Tray) will continue to run at the Seattle Repertory Theatre until April 24th, 2016. Do not miss your chance to witness this wonderful piece of history.

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