Fires in the Mirror: Crown Heights, Brooklyn, and Other Identities
The Department of Theater and Dance presents Fires in the Mirror: Crown Heights, Brooklyn and Other Identities, a groundbreaking historical recount of the 1991 Crown Heights riots in Brooklyn, written by Anna Deavere Smith and directed by Risa Brainin. The show opens at 7 p.m. on February 26 on Zoom and runs through the 28th.
Following the deaths of a Black American boy and a young Orthodox Jewish scholar in the summer of 1991, underlying racial tensions in the nestled community of Crown Heights, Brooklyn erupted into civil outbreak. Anna Deavere Smith conducted interviews with over 50 members of the Jewish and Black communities, and assembled the interviews to create Fires in the Mirror, which was originally a one-woman show where she performed every character.
At its core, this play is about empathy, said director Risa Brainin. “All of Anna’s work is about stepping into someone else’s shoes. The very nature of that work allows her to empathize with every single point of view,” she said.
Although the play deals with events from 1991, the issues it grapples with are still very much alive today. “Even though it’s a historical piece, it’s absolutely reflecting the moment we’re in now. We are still dealing with racism and a very divided country,” said Brainin.
“The play is asking you to see the commonality between people.” Fires in the Mirror does not give in to an easy answer of who’s right and who’s wrong, but rather forces the audience to see the nuances in arguments.
The most enriching part of directing Fires in the Mirror has been the immense amount of research, said Brainin. Working with the actors, Brainin and her team have compiled 200 pages of research in order to best understand and portray the show. “I love steeping myself in the research and the history, and everybody has learned something new during this process,” she said. “I hope the audience will come away from this show with a rich and deep understanding of this event, and of a new point of view.”
Join us as we explore this masterpiece of theater. The production is free to everyone, and the viewing link is available online at www.theaterdance.ucsb.edu.