Agnus the Play, a murders’ futurist trial set in 2047 written by Ise Lyfe and Matt Warner, will debut off-Broadway January 18th through February 11th in New York. At a fundraiser hosted at the Greenlining Institute in Oakland, the playwrights shared their inspiration for creating Agnus while presenting a slide show on the plays’ plot and character development.
Lyfe, an Oakland native, says growing up in Oakland, shootings, prejudice and systemic racism were not uncommon, however the recent escalation of mass shootings and the portrayal of white males by the media are in stark contrast to the portrayal of Black men in the media under the same circumstances. By citing the media’s handling of Las Vegas shooter, Steven Paddock in October and the Uni-bomber Ted Kaczynski, captured in 1996, he was able to further demonstrate how labels affect the ways in which a person is stereotyped, handled or perceived.
“The media and public characterized both mass murderers as crazy and used an empathetic approach on how to understand crazy, whereas, Blacks and people of color are labelled terrorists or thugs who should be locked up,” said Lyfe.
Lyfe further explained how labels in general, can strip a person’s humanity and that in the process a lack of empathy leaves society without tools to reach the root of the problem.
“There are many labels; illegal aliens, minorities, at-risk youth. Oftentimes these labels can detach the human factor and thus, people are treated less than. If I continue to take you out of the equation, I can make you whatever I want,” he said.
Lyfe said he doesn’t have all the answers, but says the he wanted to provide a way for art to spark the dialogue.
Lyfe’s partner, Werner, a technical writer for Google, explained he is one of the first to test out new products, including Google’s self-driving cars and Google glasses.
“By infusing what the future might look like in the form of media distribution, policing, interrogation facilities, and everyday technologies, and the context of where society currently is, we were able to give Angus an even more creative framework,” Werner said. Werner is also working on Burning Man: The Musical.
Lyfe, previously a lecturer, social justice advocate and spoken word artist says the 16-show residency at NYC’s Theatre Row, will feature panel discussions and presentations to engage youth, students and underserved communities. He also plans to bring the production to the Bay Area in 2019. “We are already slated to produce the production at the 2020 Olympics in Japan.”