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Try/Step/Trip is a poignant show about racism, drug addiction &how black men struggle with being treated fairly by our criminal justice system


I recently saw Dahlak Brathwaite’s provocative Try/Step/Trip at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills and I can’t stop thinking about it! Try/Step/Trip is a category-busting, spoken-word, multi-character musical performed through the language of step dance. The story follows the journey of an anonymous narrator as he re-imagines his experience in a court-ordered drug rehabilitation program.

This powerful, timely and relevant show was inspired by Brathwaite’s own history and experiences dealing with addiction and the obstacles facing Black men in America today and how they continually struggle to navigate our criminal justice system. Try/Step/Trip layers characters, poetic verse, and dialogue over music to create a theatrical piece that blurs the lines between hip-hop and dramatic performance. Try/Step/Trip emerges from the belief that the subjugation of Black people is an American ritual; that the criminal justice system now functions as a normalized rite of passage for too many young Black males.

This is one of those shows that is really hard to describe because you really have to see it to truly experience the discomfort, unfairness and pain it portrays. I really appreciated how Brathwaite creatively used hip hop, step dance, poetry, words and movement to capture his pain, his frustrations and his emotional road blocks to tell his story. At times this show reminded me of Lin Manuel Miranda’s lyrical rap writing style and how he uses verse and movement to tell a story. Powerful stuff!

This show moved me, it made me uncomfortable and it left me with more questions than answers and I think that was the whole point! Brathwaite is hoping his show starts a movement that ignites awareness and hopefully cultural change and based on what I have seen so far, I think he’s off to a good start! This show had a very limited run at the Wallis, but stay tuned to Brathwaite’s website to see where this powerful and memorable show lands next.

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