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A performance film of NOT A GENUINE BLACK MAN
Brian Copeland created “Not a Genuine Black Man” in 2004 at the Marsh Theater in San Francisco's Mission District where it went on to become the longest running solo show in San Francisco theater history. The show has had over 700 performances in over 30 cities including Los Angeles and Off Broadway.
In 1972 Brian Copeland’s single mother moved her African American family – four children and her mother to a white suburb (San Leandro, California) to escape domestic violence and gain access to opportunities.
What Carolyn Copeland didn’t know was that San Leandro, which borders Oakland to the south, had gained a national reputation as a racist enclave. The National Committee Against Discrimination in Housing called San Leandro “a racist bastion of white supremacy”. The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights held hearings to determine why the city was 99.99% white (according to the 1970 census) and neighboring Oakland had a 50% Black population. A nationally aired 1971 documentary called The Suburban Wall highlighted the problem.
In this two-hour tale of laughter, tears and sociology, Copeland plays over 20 characters, including himself, himself as an 8-year-old, his mother, his sister, his grandmother, his son, his father, his landlord, 3 policemen, 2 lawyers, his father, a waitress, a pastor of an all-white church, a hate-letter writer, two white teenaged racists and several irate neighbors. The narrative transports the audience in time, flashing back and forth between his childhood and his current status as a successful performer, family man and businessman.
Humor, sometimes uncomfortable, provides relief for the genuinely tragic moments. “The show has range, turning corners abruptly, humor and success sharply juxtaposed with failure and depression. He is a talented comedian but this is not two hours of stand up. The man has a lived sense of the tragic.” (SF Enquirer, 2004)
Known for his standup comedy, radio show on KGO and television programs, Copeland has written a book detailing the experiences portrayed in “Not a Genuine Black Man.” The book is required reading in numerous high school and college classrooms across the country and a curriculum was developed by teachers in the San Jose Unified School District.
WHY THIS FILM, NOW?
In 2014 the one-man play will celebrate its 10th anniversary. The show has received recognition from many media outlets, schools, educators, and community groups. Brian receives requests every year for a DVD of the performance to use alongside the book in colleges, universities, and high schools. We believe it is time for the performance to be made public and will screen it at film festivals, in a short theatrical run, on television, and make the DVD available to schools and community groups for educational purposes.
The film is simple in concept: the theater production will be professionally recorded and edited into a two-hour digital recording –the entire performance, without interruption. The film will be submitted to film festivals, have a short art-house theatrical release, be broadcast on television, and be made into DVDs. The DVD package will come with with commentary by Brian Copeland and be cut into chapters for easy use within the classroom.
Understanding, knowing, and sharing our history is perhaps the most important thing we can do to not repeat the mistakes of the past. Brian's brave retelling of his personal history in the context of the larger social issues facing people in the Bay Area and across the country remind us of the personal cost of discrimination and prejudice. Teachers and community members have told Brian that this is a "must see" performance!
WHO WE ARE
Brian Copeland-Producer, Writer, Performer
If you were to look up the definition of the word "versatility" in a dictionary of performers, chances are you'd find the name BRIAN COPELAND somewhere near the top. The multitalented comedian, writer, television host, talk radio host and commentator has basked in the glow of both public and critical acclaim for nearly a decade.
Copeland's incisive, cutting-edge standup comedy material won him San Francisco's prestigious Cabaret Gold Award as well as top prize in the Monterey Laugh Off. His unique ability to hilariously cut to the heart of some of our most serious social and political problems has earned him spots as the opening act for such diverse artists as Ray Charles, Natalie Cole, Dionne Warwick, Donna Summer, Peabo Bryson, Al Jarreau, Ringo Starr, Manhattan Transfer, Steve Allen, Dana Carvey, Kevin Pollack, Rick Springfield, Lionel Richie, Lou Rawls, George Benson, Patti La bell, Etta James, Gregory Hines, The Righteous Brothers, The Temptations, and the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin.
Glenn Weiss, Director
Glenn Weiss is a 5-time Emmy Award winner for his work on the Tony Awards which he has produced and directed for many years. Glenn is also a multiple DGA Award winner as well. Known as one of the best live multi-camera Directors in the business, Glenn has directed other live programming like multiple Democratic National Conventions, ABC's "Neighborhood Ball" featuring President Barack Obama and guests, various BET Awards ceremonies, several "Miss USA, UNIVERSE & TEEN USA PAGEANTS,” “The 62nd Primetime Emmy Awards,” “Oscars Red Carpet 2011" and for the last several years ABC's "Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin Eve with Ryan Seacrest.” Weiss has also served as the executive producer on the "Super Bowl XLI Halftime Show" and as the executive producer and director of the “Thanksgiving Day Parade” on CBS from 2005-2012, several "Daytime Emmy" telecasts, as well as CBS’ "The Boston Pops 4th of July Celebration" for the last several years. Glenn and his partner Ricky Kirshner are the principals in the award winning WHITECHERRY ENTERTAINMENT.
Dawn D. Valadez--Associate Producer
produced and co-directed the award-winning documentary—GOING ON 13, which was
funded by Latino Public Broadcasting, ITVS, California Council for the
Humanities, Chicken and Egg Pictures, and the Fledgling Fund among other
foundations and private donors. GOING ON 13 screened at film festivals around
the world, on public television in the US, Europe, Asia, and at community
events, conferences, schools, and youth organizations. She co-authored the
38-page study guide that accompanies the film and leads youth and adult
dialogues on the issues raised in the film. It is currently being distributed
through New Day Films. Dawn, a 20 year veteran in social services and a
Chicana, who has a master’s degree in social welfare, consults with non-profits
and filmmakers on fund-raising, grant writing, program development and strategic
planning. She is a consultant on TRUST (2010, Kelly+Yamamoto Productions) a
feature-length verité documentary about a survivor of rape who – propelled by
theater – experiences a very healthy movement away from identifying herself
with that trauma. Dawn's new project TURN IT AROUND focuses on "home grown teachers." Digging into our communities to find the teachers we need to reach our youth. Dawn sits on numerous education and community service boards,
and formerly served on the New Day Films Steering Committee.
The Marsh Theater, Fiscal Sponsor
The Marsh began with a creative vision. The name, The Marsh, a breeding ground for new performance, came out of several months Stephanie Weisman spent living on the edge of a marsh writing and watching the rich interplay between the different elements that created the landscape. The Marsh, it seemed like a perfect metaphor for artistic development in the urban environment.