ST. CHARLES – The play "Moreno" couldn't be more timely given the current protests against police violence.
The drama centers on four fictional NFL players who are faced with career-making decisions in the summer of 2016, when Colin Kaepernick begins his protest against police violence and racial inequity. There will be a live reading of "Moreno" at 7:30 p.m. tonight, Sept. 2, as part of Kane Repertory Theatre's The New Play Lab.
It is a weekly virtual program with professional playwrights from across the country. Audiences get a look at the development of the works and can join the post-read discussions.
The readings can be watched on Kane Repertory Theatre's YouTube channel. The livestreams are free, but donations are welcomed at secure.givelively.org/donate/kane-repertory-theatre-co.
Moreno is a term used in Spanish to refer to individuals of dark skin tones. Pravin Wilkins, a playwright, poet and fiction writer from San Diego, California, said he was moved to create the play following Kaepernick's decision not to stand during the national anthem at the start of NFL games as a way to bring attention to racial injustice, police brutality and systematic oppression in the country.
"One thing that inspired me to write the play was the fact that there were so many other players that joined this protest movement," Wilkins said. "But even though there were all these other people contributing their voices and taking a stand as well, the narrative as it went was that everyone was just talking about Kaepernick and whether he was a patriot or whether he hated America. It kind of devolved into this back and forth about Kaepernick, as though he was the only person who was important to this movement. That's not to take anything away from him, because he kicked all of this off, and he made a huge sacrifice."
What Wilkins said he tried to do in the play was to "really hone in on what are these guys going through that makes them decide to join this protest or not."
"Instead of it just being a question about is it the right thing to do, I was curious about what might make somebody join this protest movement," he said. "Like what are the personal reasons behind [their decision] and so on and so forth."
The play has received acclaim, including being recognized as a 2020 finalist at the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center's National Playwrights Conference. Wilkins said he isn't surprised that the issues discussed in the play continue to be relevant.
"Until the systemic issues are addressed that cause these protests, they aren't going to go away," he said. "They're going to come back in different forms, in new places and in new ways."
Follow the ongoing play series at kanerepertorytheatre.com.