Playwright Micheal Meijas’ “Ghetto Babylon” in the Spotlight
Jessica | On 01, Aug 2013
Award winning playwright Michael Meijas tells why his
“Ghetto Babylon” is such a success. The play is a nostalgic walk with Charlie Rosa in a 1982 Bronx neighborhood. After receiving a mysterious letter, the teenager’s life becomes one of balancing boarding school with boyhood antics. But sly Charlie conjures up a fantastical confidant to help in this coming of age tale of a boy who is just trying to be fourteen.
Meijas was first inspired by a 1985 event in which a Black Stanford student, Edmund Perry was shot and killed by a white undercover cop. The police officer alleged Perry had attacked him, and he shot in self-defense. Much like today’s Trayvon Martin case this spawned a number of protests and a book by Robert Sam Anson, “The Best intentions”. There was an excerpt of that book in New York magazine, that Meijas so vividly recalls, “That New York magazine article is what really resonated with me. One line in particular, and it kind of goes like this ‘Regardless of what happened that night up in Harlem whether Eddie jumped this undercover cop or the cop shot for whatever reason he had and killed Eddie Perry, something was wrong with America.’
Meijas was thus inspired to pen a play that would take nearly three decades to complete. He also confesses that he had difficulty in writing the play, “I started to write a play that has changed twenty million times. It should’ve been my 5th or 6th play, it is my 26th play. This is the one that always got away.” In 2008 he revisited this particular piece, and Ghetto Babylon was born. The play went on to win the National Latino Playwright award. “All you can do is write and hope for the best. I don’t write for the purpose of getting an award or winning a contest. You write it and you hope people like it.”
The indie play currently resides off Broadway on E59E. However Ghetto Babylon is striving to make a name for itself in the ranks of better known plays. Meijas is currently trying to let the play have more exposure in the West Coast among other locations. The writer gushes about wanting his play to balloon to fame, “We hope that we can get a commercial run. We are hoping for this secretly and not so secretly. We’re ambitious for it. “ Meijas is striving to unite the lesser known Latino communities in places such as the Pacific or the Midwest. “We’re all part of this American narrative, and we’re all part of this conversation. We’re not running alongside or existing parallel to it the Latino experience is the American experience.”
Ghetto Babylon is off-Broadway at 59E59 Theater (www.59E59.org) and will run from August 1st to August 18th.
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