Blackballin’ By Rickerby Hinds

By Elizabeth Brown, CHASS Dean’s Office Student Intern
May 8, 2014

Rickerby Hinds is a professor of playwriting in the theater department at UC Riverside. On April 10th, and continuing on to the 19th, his play Blackballin’ had its first grand scale production at the UCR studio theater.

Professor Hinds wrote Blackballin’, his first full length play, in 1995 while in graduate school at UCLA. He had always been a sports fan, and when thinking of the play he started with “an image of a coach standing on a pile of naked black bodies, receiving an award,” which is exactly how the play starts, and ends. From here he went on to research African Americans and their relation to sports and history. Specifically, he wanted to seek out those individuals who had “transcended” the sports they participated in and became a “crucial part of the American historical narrative.”

A year after Hinds wrote the play, Blackballin’ was selected to workshop at the Royal Court Theatre in London. It was also performed at the Mark Taper Forum new play festival during 1996 and 1997, and was briefly shown in the bay area around the same time. Professor Hinds is excited that Blackballin’ could still be performed here at UCR. He had some initial hesitations about the relevancy of the issues after a decade had passed since its conception. However, Blackballin’ focuses in on the specific examples in the play, such as the lack of black quarterbacks in the NFL, and uses that concept to represent “the bigger picture of the loss of opportunities because of race” that individuals such as African Americans in sports encounter. Hinds comments that he wanted to take “immediate issues” that exist in the time frame of 1995, and use them as “universal” metaphors to show the importance of sports in the greater American narrative. Blackballin’ was directed by Beth Gardiner and choreographed by Vernon Jackson. Scenic design was done by Carmen Gomez, costume design by Deandre Moore, lighting design by Jacqueline Malenke, and sound design by Matt Taylor.

Hinds is currently touring his new play Dreamscape in Poland to four different universities. This play is based on the 1998 shooting of a young woman named Myeisha Mills by the police in Riverside and uses beatboxing, spoken word, and hip hop dance. 

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