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Racial profiling examined in new BK play

By KAREN JUANITA CARRILLO | 4/24/2014, 3:59 p.m.
Award-winning playwright Marcus Gardley tackles the controversial police practice of racial profiling in his new theater production “The Box: A Black Comedy.”

“According to the original idea of what he was talking about, you could not pull anyone over or stop anyone unless you were sure that they were carrying a weapon,” Gardley said. He said the now retired police officer did not like how the language for stop-and-frisk was changed to make it so that if the police got the feeling that someone was carrying a weapon, they could stop them. “And then it also became about quotas—you know, filling quotas; you needed to stop-and-frisk this amount of people this week. The officer said his original idea did not really have to do with numbers. It was more about how to make a neighborhood safer and how do we also get community members to take ownership of a neighborhood and ownership of what’s happening in a neighborhood in connection with the police. Of course, that does not now exist.”

Gardley’s “The Box: A Black Comedy” is having its world premiere in Brooklyn, and Gardley plans to also show the play in Boston, Chicago and other major cities. Gardley says he wants the production to primarily show in places where racial profiling by police is a major issue. At the end of each performance, Gardley plans to offer the chance for audience members to discuss what they have seen and what they know about racial profiling.

“The one thing that I think theater can do is spark a conversation, spark dialogue,” Gardley explained. “So, I don’t know, it’s probably too lofty to say that I hope everybody walks away with this idea, but I think if the play challenges people to have a conversation or encourages them to do further research into what’s happening, I think that for me is a home run.”