Theater & Dance
"Party People"

By: Universes (Steven Sapp, Mildred Ruiz-Sapp, William Ruiz)
Produced by: Berkeley Rep
Featuring: J. Bernard Calloway (Blue), Michael Elich (Marcus/Roger), Christopher Livingston (Malik), Amy Lizardo (Clara), Jesse J. Perez (Tito), Sophia Ramos (Maruca), Robynn Rodriguez (Donna/Fina), Mildred Ruiz-Sapp, (Helita), William Ruiz (Jimmy), Steven Sapp, (Omar), Reggie D. White (Solias), and C. Kelly Wright (Amira)
Developed and directed by: Liesl Tommy
When: October 17 - November 16, 2014
Where: Berkeley Repertory Theatre Thrust Stage, 2025 Addison Street @ Shattuck, Berkeley, California
Tickets: $29-$89 (subject to change; discounts available). Call 510 647-2949 or visit Berkeley Rep

Steven Sapp / Berkeley Rep
Steven Sapp as Omar, right, leads the ensemble cast in in "Party People," about the Black Panthers and Young Lords. It's at Berkeley Rep, October 17 through November 16, 2014.
Power to 'Party People'
in the free state of Berkeley
Rep stages powerful look at the legacy
of the Black Panthers and the Young Lords
October 26, 2014

In a word: Intense. A few more words: In-your-face, action-packed, strobe lights, loud noises and the sounds of gunfire. It's "Party People," on stage at Berkeley Rep.

At the top of the stage, on the wall, a large, lighted sign reads "Revolution!"

The stage is peppered with video flat screens across the stage at various heights. They begin the story, and light up at various times throughout the play with videotaped comments from back in the day.

Two young men, Christopher Livingston as Malik, son of a former Black Panther member; and William Ruiz as Jimmy, nephew of former Young Lords member, Tito, played by Jesse J. Perez, are our guides for a look back at a very turbulent time in American History, the 1960s. Malik and Jimmy have produced an exhibit to celebrate their Black Panthers/Young Lords legacy, and invited everyone to come see it. It is a family reunion at its best, and worst.

Between the dancing, music, rap/poetry, drama, laughter, sorrow, and joys of the characters, there is a bittersweet history lesson. Thirty years later, feelings are fully exposed, and secrets shockingly revealed, as the characters reunite at the exhibit.

Expect to hear the N-word, the F-bomb and everything else, in English and in Spanish, as super-charged emotions pour out in words and song. The ability to encapsulate the depth and breadth of the 1960s into two hours and 35 minutes and 12 characters is amazing. You see snippets of people who not only sacrificed their lives and children's lives to the cause, but were also victims of its demise.

Party chapters opened up nationwide, embracing the idea of a commitment to community service, and to violence, if necessary. But, as the party’s influence increased, so did its opposition. Local police constantly targeted and harassed male and female members. The FBI, led by J. Edgar Hoover, authorized its Counter Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO) to target the Panthers. By 1969, government informants had thoroughly infiltrated.

In "Party People," Solias (played by Reggie D. White) was the symbolic Judas, and the full cast marched around the stage chanting "COINTELPRO,"in one scene. Distrust and suspicion spread within the organization and party members began to flee or turn on each other. The Young Lords organization met the same fate.

The impact of the Black Panther Movement is an undeniable part of our American History. Memories live on today in those who participated in the movement, or were touched by its programs. A look back at history is a necessary reminder for all to see what has been accomplished and how much still needs to be done.

"Power to the People!”

Email Petra Brady at

Party People / Berkeley Rep
Christopher Livingston as Malik, Sophia Ramos as Maruca, and Reggie D. White as Solias, from left, in "Party People," about the Black Panthers and Young Lords. It's at Berkeley Rep, October 17 through November 16, 2014.
Party People / Berkeley Rep
J. Bernard Calloway as Blue, Mildred Ruiz-Sapp as Helita (background), and Kelly C. Wright as Amira, from left, in "Party People," about the Black Panthers and Young Lords. It's at Berkeley Rep, October 17 through November 16, 2014.