A Day, A Life, A People

The DC Black Repertory Company has scored a bullseye with A Day, A Life, A People which opened at the Last Colony Theater on Wednesday.

This “song talk” written and directed by Bernice Reagon, meets the highest expectations one could have for the young theatrical company. The work has verve, originality, fresh and exiting music and a topicality that should appeal to its broad Washington audience.

From the opening rumble of bass voices hidden in the audience to the final rousing chorus in which spectators are invited to join in the cast, this production works.

A Day… is about the lives of a number of people living in Washington: their mornings at home, the bus ride to work at a government job, time in the office and the ride back home at the end of the day.

In the process we are given glimpses of a broad range of situations and emotions: humor, sadness, pathos, love and pleasure. We catch glimpses of people caught up in bureaucracy, seeing only what is in their heads, learning about each other and sharing their feelings in all these stages of emotion.

There is no spoken dialogue. Drawing from the full range of black music, Reagon has fused the various black musical styles—traditional rhythm and blues, gospel, even children rhymes and street riffs: to tell the story.
At times a song is one line, akin to the European opera’s recitative, leading to the next song: or scene.

The chorus, seated primarily in the audience provides the underpinning and sets the mood for various scenes—humming, punctuating, asserting the traditional African call-and-response pattern.

The fact that instrumental accompaniment is not missed is credit to the vocal arrangements and to the quality of voices in the company.

A Day, A Life, A People has originality in concept and in execution. Several of the scenes are priceless.

—Joel Dreyfuss, Washington Post
December 18, 1975