September 21, 2015

The Lower Frequencies

Racial injustice. Social inequality. Black stereotypes. White privilege. These and other issues are at the heart of The Lower Frequencies, an original play written and performed by Amherst graduate Bryce Monroe '15 that is as captivating as its subject matter is difficult.

The show debuted at Amherst in April 2015, riveting students with its powerful and timely commentary on what it means to be a black man in America, and is back by popular demand for three nights only, Thursday, Sept. 24–Saturday, Sept. 26, at 7:30 p.m. in The Powerhouse.

Created by Monroe for his senior thesis in theater and dance, The Lower Frequencies depicts a nameless narrator's confrontation with the American dream. His story is brought to life through powerful vignettes—told through poetry, song, dance, impersonation, multimedia and gripping drama—on race, media, violence against black bodies and the search for justice.

Monroe says he found inspiration for his piece through a close reading of the "battle royal" scene of Ralph Ellison's 1952 novel Invisible Man, in which "young black men are placed in a boxing ring, blindfolded with one arm restrained behind their backs and forced to fight each other for the enjoyment of a white audience." Building on Ellison's imagery, Monroe's performance highlights past and present social and intellectual issues facing black Americans, which he hopes will be "relatable for some" and "eye-opening for others."

A psychology and theater and dance double major, Monroe began creating The Lower Frequencies in Professor Wendy Woodson's fall 2014 course "Performance Studio," in which students incorporate original choreography, text, music, sound and/or video into performance pieces of their own creation. "At the time I was creating this particular scene," Monroe says, "the most prevalent racial issue in America was police brutality against young and unarmed black men." In the showcase event description, Monroe explained the piece as "a solo monologue and dance commentary on the social injustices caused by enduring institutional systems that have muted the voices, camouflaged the bodies and denigrated the lives of the black community in the United States."

Soon after the show's initial three-night run (which sold out after opening night), Monroe received an Amherst College fellowship for continued/graduate study in theater and dance. He used the funds to develop The Lower Frequencies into a professional production. After performing at Amherst this fall, he'll take the show to Central Connecticut State University in the spring, and then to other academic institutions, theaters and festivals that celebrate diversity, social and racial harmony, tolerance and the breaking of stereotypes and socioeconomic barriers.

See The Lower Frequencies, written and performed by Bryce Monroe '15, Thursday, Sept. 24, through Saturday, Sept. 26, at 7:30 p.m. in The Powerhouse. Admission is free, but seating is limited.

Tickets will be available at the door.