Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Black actor learns more than history in ‘Aren’t You…?’

Fred Pitts

 Calling himself a history geek, Fred Pitts undertook a weeklong   journey to see all 21 California missions in 2012.

 The San Francisco actor chronicles his experiences in his one-man   play, “Aren’t You…?” developed in collaboration with David Ford   and presented by Palo Alto Players to conclude its 90th season.

 He provides interesting tidbits about each stop, starting from Mission   San Francisco de Solano in Sonoma and continuing south to Mission   Basilica San Diego in San Diego.

 Built by Spain starting in 1769, each was about 30 miles apart, or a   day’s journey by horseback. 

 Part of the missions’ purpose was to convert Indians to Christianity.   However, as Pitts discovered, they also were places where the Indians  were enslaved and persecuted – a historic form of racism that is little known today.

As a Black man, Pitts encountered another form of racism in the way he was spoken to by people along the way.

In many cases, they mistook him for such Black men as Richard Roundtree, Will Smith, Rafer Johnson, Barry Bonds and even former president Barack Obama. Hence the title, “Aren’t You …?”

The personable actor gives voice to the people he talks about.

Directed by ShawnJ West, Pitts injects much humor as he relates his adventures and harks back to his own religious background.

It started with the Black churches he attended as a young boy and continued with a predominately white Catholic school where he was an object of interest because he was Black.

He performs on a barebones stage adorned only by a table and chair and backed by a large screen where photos of each mission are projected.

Running about 65 minutes without intermission, “Aren’t You …?” is both amusing and enlightening.

Live performances will continue through Aug. 29 at the Lucie Stern Theater, 1305 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto. Patrons must provide proof of vaccination against the coronavirus or a negative test within 72 hours prior. Masks are required.

A recorded performance will be streamed on demand from 9 a.m. Aug. 27 through 11:59 p.m. Sept. 5.

For tickets and more information, call (650) 329-0891 or visit www.paplayers.org.