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New Horizon’s ‘The Nacirema Society’ Invites Audiences to Have a Ball

By SHARON EBERSON

The New Horizon Theater has a ready-made invitation in the title of the upcoming The Nacirema Society Requests the Honor of Your Presence at a Celebration of Their First One Hundred Years, a satire with dashes of matriarchal meddling and intrigue seen in the likes of Bridgerton and Crazy Rich Asians.

The play by Pearl Cleage is directed by Eileen J. Morris and runs May 31-June 16, 2024, in the O’Reilly Theater’s Helen Wayne Rauh Rehearsal Hall.

The setting is 1964 Montgomery, Alabama, as the fictional Nacirema Society celebrates its centennial and prepares for its annual introduction of six debutantes into the city’s elite African-American society, governed by their strong-willed female elders. Their traditions are in sharp contrast with the civil rights movement, shortly before the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s march in nearby Selma. Per New Horizon, “Cleage addresses issues of racism, sexism, class and entitlement in a farce that’s somewhere between a television sit-com and a screwball comedy of the 1930s or ’40s.”

Jeannine Foster-McKelvia heads a mostly female cast as Grace, with Dominique Briggs, Tajionna Clinton, Brenda Marks, Karla C. Payne, Shakirah Stephens, Angelique A. Strothers and Cheryl El-Walker. Nickolas Page plays Bobby Green, Grace’s grandson.

For a further dive into the play’s inspiration, it is notable that Nacirema – “American” spelled backward – is a term that originated in a satire of anthropological papers, poking fun at “body rituals” and “exotic customs.” 

TICKETS AND DETAILS

New Horizon Theater presents The Nacirema Society May 31-June 16, 2024, at Pittsburgh Public Theater’s Helen Wayne Rauh Rehearsal Hall, on the third floor of the O’Reilly Theater. Tickets:

CELEBRATING ‘BLACK BRILLIANCE’

Before the May 31 performance of New Horizon Theater’ presents’s The Nacirema Society and Pittsburgh Public Theater’s The Coffin Maker, the Public invites community members to Black Brilliance: A celebration of Black creativity at the O’Reilly Theater. The “affinity party, from 6-7 p.m., features food and beverages, networking opportunities and more, with participating performance artists representing Pittsburgh Playwrights, the August Wilson Archives, Hill Dance Academy Theatre, New Opera House, Kelly-Strayhorn Theater and Alumni Theater Company.