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Fatal Police Shooting Of Stephon Clark Makes Milwaukee Play More Timely

Playwright Of 'Until The Flood' Comments On Shooting, Police-Community Divide

Dael Orlandersmith in "Until The Flood"
Milwaukee Repertory Theater presents Until the Flood, written and performed by Dael Orlandersmith in the Stiemke Studio, March 13 – April 22, 2018. Photo by Michael Brosilow

The author and actress of a one-person play being performed in Milwaukee says she’s heartbroken that the fatal police shooting of Stephon Clark this week in Sacramento, California, has made her work more timely.

Dael Orlandersmith wrote “Until the Flood,” which explores reactions in Ferguson and St. Louis, Missouri, to the 2014 fatal police shooting by a white officer, of local resident Michael Brown, an African-American. Orlandersmith performs all eight composite characters she crafted for the play.

Thursday, Orlandersmith spoke at the Marquette University Law School. She noted Sunday night’s fatal shooting of Clark.

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According to NPR, police, responding to a 911 call, say they shot Clark in his grandmother’s back yard after they thought he was advancing toward them with a gun. It was later determined Clark was holding a cell phone. Protests of the shooting Thursday night caused Interstate 5 to be shut down, and delayed an NBA basketball game in downtown Sacramento, NPR reported.

Orlandersmith acknowledged that Clark’s death adds to the timeliness of her play.

“Actually, I find it really upsetting right now, because (the shootings) keep happening. I guess the play is more relevant now than it ever was. It just keeps being relevant and relevant and relevant,” Orlandersmith said. “I’m glad the play is going on, but I’m sorry about what it takes to have it keep going on. This whole (police-community) divide.”

“Until the Flood” is already drawing attention in Milwaukee, because of several officer involved shootings of African-Americans in the city in recent years, including Dontre Hamilton in 2014.

Orlandersmith said she hopes the play gets people talking to each other.

“I hope it invokes and provokes talk, communication. I’m not a politician, but having said that, I’m far from being indifferent,” she said. “I have a sense of boundary. But I do hope that somehow we can come to some sort of — communication,” she said.

“Until the Flood” is a production of the Milwaukee Repertory Theater. The play runs through April 22.

More protests are planned in Sacramento on Friday.