Thursday, September 21, 2006

Theater Review: Not a Genuine Black Man

Not a Genuine Black Man, a one-man show written and performed by Brian Copeland, is so incredibly moving, so outrageously funny and so mesmerizing and engrossing that once you’ve seen it, there’s no doubt that it will stay with you forever. It’s been described as an evening of laughter, tears and sociology. In 1972, the National Committee against Discrimination in Housing called the California city of San Leandro a racist bastion of white supremacy. It was selected as one of the most racist suburbs in the United States. At the time, CBS News and Newsweek magazine did in-depth stories on the situation. The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights conducted hearings concerning it. It was a huge story, because people were shocked that something like this could happen in Northern California. Brian Copeland and his mother moved to San Leandro when Brian was just eight, and they experienced all of the hate and racism that existed in this small town. They were discriminated against by their landlords, their neighbors, their peers and the entire community, and yet they learned from it and persevered. Brian’s mom raised her son pretty much by herself and stood her ground and refused to move out of San Leandro. Not a Genuine Black Man is Brian Copeland’s story of how it happened – how it affected him personally, changed his and his mother’s life, and, in many ways, led him to become the incredibly insightful and tolerant man he is today. I worked with Brian way back in the late 80’s when he was in his early 20’s, and even then I could sense that he would be a big star. He has been doing standup ever since then, and recently won the San Francisco Cabaret Gold Award for his act. He is a multitalented comedian, writer, TV host (Channel 5), radio talk show host (KGO) and commentator. But, this one-man show has really put Brian on the map, and for good reason. It is the longest running one-man show in the history of San Francisco. HBO is in the process of creating a series around the show. It has gotten rave reviews from everyone who’s seen it – from the SF Chronicle to every single TV and radio station in the Bay Area and beyond. I have seen it twice, and the second time was actually better than the first, because I remembered a lot from the first time and was actually more prepared for it. I was able to catch a lot more of the subtlety and nuances of his monologue.
Not a Genuine Black Man is playing at The Marsh, a very small and intimate theater in the Mission, on 1062 Valencia Street (near 22nd Street). Call (415) 826-5750 for information and tickets. It’s only being perfumed on Thursdays and Fridays through October 21st right now, so get your tickets before all of the shows sell out. Copeland also recently wrote a book based on the show, which is also getting stellar reviews. It’s currently available through For more about Brian Copeland and Not a Genuine Black Man, visit his web site at: For more information about The Marsh, take a look at:

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