Ed Bullins is a fascinating figure in the history of a revolutionary black nationalist literary culture. The name of Amiri Baraka often dominates such discussions, and indeed, it was one of his plays that changed the life of Bullins, an ex-boxer, a Navy veteran and an aspiring writer who had gravitated to the burgeoning counterculture of mid-1960s San Francisco. Bullins joined the Black Panthers and briefly became its culture minister while writing and surviving. Four decades later, Little Green Pig Theatrical Concern and its artistic director, Jay O'Berski, became interested in his work of that era. In 2008, O'Berski directed Goin' a Buffalo, Bullins' tale of an inept band of small-time criminals.
To kick off Little Green Pig's two-week festival of African-American theater called "The Theme is Blackness," this weekend will see the world premiere of Night Beast, a new adaptation of another vintage Bullins work. The story, we're told, is set on a "dystopian Black planet, [where] a Brother awakes to find himself in the midst of a civil war." The cast includes Lakeisha Coffey, Gil Faison, Trevor Johnson, Utrophia Robinson and Regenna Rouse. The show opens tonight and runs through Saturday; Bullins himself will be present for a post-show Q-and-A after tonight's performance. Next week is Lydia R. Diamond's Harriet Jacobs, which is adapted from Jacobs' memoir Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. —David Fellerath
Correction (Nov. 4, 2010): This festival is presented by Little Green Pig and co-sponsored by Manbites Dog, Duke's Department of Theater Studies and The Mary Lou Williams Center.