A new show at the American Repertory Theater lifts the curtain on a universal meeting space for men of color: the barbershop.
“There’s always been a need for black men to find spaces where they could commune without fear of a sort of judgmental or voyeuristic gaze,” said Nigerian-born poet-playwright Inua Ellams, who spent weeks traveling around England and Africa researching “Barber Shop Chronicles,” at the Loeb Mainstage through Jan. 5.
“Barbershops,” he added, “are that space.”
Twelve actors take on 30 roles in the play. From London to Nigeria, the men may see things through different cultural lenses, but the dynamics of their discussions are always the same, Ellams noted.
“There are cross-generational conversations going on; different types of people with different monies in their pockets clashing. There are the same questions about fatherhood, about masculinity, about belonging, about the legacy of colonization coming up.”
Ellams left out U.S. barbershops to avoid creating “another play which centered America.”
“I wanted to create something which centered African identity, but not African-American identity,” he said.