Chokehold: “Nothing stilled my aching heart. So I had to write a play.”
This is the second production of Chokehold. The first production premiered in June 2015 as part of the Planet Connections Festivity where it won Outstanding Overall Production of a New Play. This year, it is playing in rep with Safe by Penny Jackson, also an alum of Planet Connections. They will be appearing together at the 14th Street Y starting September 16.
The first draft of Chokehold was written during the 2014 holiday season, and, at that time, it was a response to the killings of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Tamir Rice. Since then, the number of American citizens of African lineage — mostly men, but some women — killed by police has only grown. We try to honor as many as possible who have lost their lives in the past couple of years. The challenge — a necessary one — therefore has been to keep the play current and relevant. In doing this play, we take on a responsibility to remember those whom we have lost under the most calamitous of circumstances. Recent events in Louisiana and Minnesota only reinforce the need for the theatrical community to have a full-throated engagement on this issue.
Chokehold was written in anger. I marched and protested and did prayer walks. Nothing stilled my aching heart. So I had to write a play. It is an angry play. And, unfortunately, it does not offer much in the way of resolution. Art, and especially theatre, creates a space where anger can be expressed in such a way that is ultimately beneficial to society at large. I hope that Chokehold will encourage debate, soul-searching, and more theatrical responses to this plague of injustice.
- – Anthony P. Pennino, playwright