“Pass Over”: The Reality of Police Brutality in America

The cast and crew of “Pass Over.” Director Cristina Duarte stands centered. /Bobbie Bell

  Last Friday was the first performance of “Pass Over,” a play written by Antoinette Nwandu and directed by Cristina Duarte. The play does an exceptional job showcasing and highlighting issues within our society such as race and police brutality, and how racism can prevent individuals from fulfilling their dreams and “passing over to the promised land.”

   “Pass Over” is inspired in part by the 2012 murder of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. It’s also based on the Samuel Beckett play “Waiting for Godot.”

 In “Pass Over,” two black men, Moses and Kitch, are stuck on a street corner. They are hoping to “pass over into the promised land,” leave their neighborhood, and fulfill their ideas of what it means to attain the American Dream. But white society has other plans for them.

   Whether or not Moses and Kitch reach this “promised land” is an adventure and journey taken by these two individuals that no one will want to miss.

   “People should expect to be compelled,” said Duarte. “[‘Pass Over’] will make people think about what is going on today and how we contribute to some of the themes expressed in the play [such as] oppression, fear, violence, and race issues.”  

   Moses and Kitch are played by Kwesi Baird and Charles Fenner III. They’re both seniors pursuing their Bachelors of Fine Arts (BFAs) in Acting. Both Baird and Fenner auditioned based on their enthusiasm for the material.

   “When I read the play, my heart would skip a beat,” Baird remembers. “I was gunning for it.”

   Fenner was excited to act in a play with such important themes.

   “This production alludes to the control of black bodies, specifically black men in regards to police brutality in America, and the play was written by a black woman too,” said Fenner. He went on to say, “I feel blessed. I hope that it doesn’t become about me or the acting, but the message.”

   Duarte agrees. The play has a special resonance for her as an immigrant.

   “I came as an immigrant from Portugal and was raised in Newark,” she said. Coming to America at the age of seven, she had her own ideas of “wanting to reach the promised land” and “passing over to [her] dreams.” 

   “It speaks to what is happening in the news. It discusses internal and external fears we all face.  It is not only important for the Brooklyn College community to see, but for the community at large,” says Duarte.

   In the play, these internal and external fears are an obstacle for the men hoping to escape their block. One obstacle is the “white man,” represented by the characters Mister and Ossifer, who instill feelings of fear and worthlessness into Moses and Kitch. Mister and Ossifer are both played by Tyler Adams, who also is a senior pursuing his BFA in Acting.

   “It was an intense play,” Adams said. “I couldn’t do it without Charles and Kwesi right beside me.”

   It is unbelievable how well Baird, Fenner, and Adams are able to speak volumes about a massive issue with only a few characters.  Audience members Dailee Morrone and Naomi Ricketts agreed that “Pass Over” has an immense impact on all those watching. Morrone described their acting as “incredible,” and Ricketts mentioned how well they showcased “brotherhood” throughout the play. Others in the audience shared feelings of compassion, fear, and laughter with each other. There was a steady balance of humor in the play without taking away from the severity of the message.

   “I am more concerned about the message,” Fenner said. “Fortunately, we know the playwright personally and I felt like it was a responsibility for us to tell this story.” He wants people to also think about the stories of “the mothers, uncles, and best friends, who have to live without the person that they love” unfortunately as a result of the violence in the world.

   “The message is so powerful, and I can’t wait to share my character’s story,” adds Baird. “I’m really excited to share the stage with Charles and Tyler, and I couldn’t ask for a better cast like this with them.”

   “It was a wonderful, collaborative, and inspired process with the actors and designers,” said Duarte. “We put a lot into the pot and made a really tasty stew that we are happy to share and hope the audience enjoys as well.”

   Duarte dedicates the production to her students. She says that we all have a transitional period of wanting to fulfill our dreams, yet feeling the weight of our fears. She enjoys directing plays with “strong characters that push against those social norms,” that hold us back.

   “Pass Over” will be shown until Thursday, Oct. 17 in the Performing Arts Center’s Buchwald Theater. The visual and sound effects heighten the scenes, and the set design automatically makes the audience intrigued before the play even starts. Without a doubt, Duarte is correct when she says the audience is in for a “treat.”

About Bobbie Bell 7 Articles
Bobbie Bell is local to the New York area and is pursuing a Bachelor's degree, majoring in Journalism and Media Studies. She covers a variety of news topics ranging from both hard and soft news. This includes entertainment news as well. She believes that everyone has their own story to tell, and is dedicated to sharing stories that have the ability to inspire and impact others.