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WWU production of ‘Top Dog/Underdog’ travels to Mexico City

“Top Dog/Underdog,” starring Teague Parker, left, and Micheal Smith, is presented at 2 and 7:30 p.m. Feb. 6 at WWU’s PAC Mainstage before director Mark Kuntz takes the play to Mexico City.
“Top Dog/Underdog,” starring Teague Parker, left, and Micheal Smith, is presented at 2 and 7:30 p.m. Feb. 6 at WWU’s PAC Mainstage before director Mark Kuntz takes the play to Mexico City. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

Western Washington University professors Mark Kuntz and Darren McCroom are headed to Mexico City with five students this month to present Suzan-Lori Parks’ “Top Dog/Underdog,with two-performances on campus, at 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 6, at Western’s Performing Arts Center Mainstage, before they leave.

Kuntz, who is directing the play, chose to present it in part as a response to events on Western’s campus this fall and because it won the Pulitzer Prize for drama in 2002. Parks was the first African-American woman to receive the honor.

Kuntz says the play is rarely performed on college campuses because of the small cast — two African-American males. Western’s practice is to stage plays with larger casts to provide more opportunities for students.

Kuntz says “Top Dog” is a powerful and provocative look at two black brothers, Lincoln and Booth, in New York City. Lincoln, played by Micheal Smith, works at an arcade, dressed in white-face as Abe Lincoln, where passersby can grab a gun and shoot him. Booth, played by Teague Parker, dreams of financial security though three-card Monte, a game that is a thread throughout the play.

In fall 2014, Kuntz was asked by The Kennedy Center to attend Festival Nacional de Teatro Universitario, in Mexico City to explore connecting university theater in the United States with the highly regarded international university theater festival. He attended in February 2014 and learned the festival was eager to establish cross-cultural ties.

In a student exchange last year, a senior from Western went to Mexico while a student director from Mexico came to Western, resulting in two performances at the festival, one directed by a Western student using Latina actors, and one directed by a Latino director performed by Western students. The performances were held in Mexico; Boise, Idaho; and at Western.

Margaret Bikman: 360-715-2273, @bhamentertainme

“Top Dog/Underdog”

When: 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 6

Where: Western Washington University Performing Arts Center Mainstage

Tickets: $15 at at PAC box office, 360-650-6146, tickets.wwu.edu

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