The provocative subject "What if the U.S. government attempted to solve racism by offering Black Americans one-way plane tickets to Africa?" is posed in Jordan E. Cooper’s Broadway play Ain't No Mo. The play is an explosive and hilarious satire about modern African-American life in the United States.
Despite having A-list producers like Dwyane Wade (through his company 59th & Prairie Entertainment), RuPaul Charles, Gabrielle Union (through her company I'll Have Another Productions), and many more, the play was given the notice to close only a week after it opened. Most recently, Tyler Perry joined Will Smith, Jada Pinkett Smith, Queen Latifah, Shonda Rhimes and Sara Ramirez to buy out some of the final performances as a last ditch effort to save the show. There have been several other Hollywood heavy-hitters who have made significant contributions to ensure Ain't No Mo has an extended stay on Broadway.
In an open letter, Cooper, who is also the creator behind BET’s The Ms. Pat Show, wrote, "We need all hands on deck with urgency. In the name of art, in the name of resistance, in the name of we belong here too, in the name of every storytelling ancestor who ever graced a Broadway stage or was told they never could, BUY A TICKET and come have church with us. Radical Black work belongs on Broadway too."
Cooper recently spoke to BET.com about trying to save his project.
BET.com: So, what can you tell us about what transpired?
Jordan E. Cooper: Yes. So basically, we opened about a week ago to really, really awesome reviews, great reviews, and audiences are loving it. But, the problem was people didn't know about it. And, right now on Broadway, it's really hard to sell a show if you don't have, you know, like a Denzel or somebody--a celebrity on stage, or you're not based on something recognizable.
So it takes time, especially when you're a Black show, to find your audience and especially when you when you're leaning on traditional Broadway marketing which doesn't necessarily market to Black folks. And, this is a play that was written specifically for Black folks.
So, it is imperative right now that we really look into how we market these shows, and really look into where it goes. So people can know that they're invited, and people can know that this is for them, because traditionally, Broadway is not always meant for us, right?
So we were really needing time to do that. And before we could get a chance to do it, we were served with a closing notice, to shut the show down. Which is why my letter, you know, I referenced The Wiz. They got a closing notice on their opening night but, the audiences were able to turn it around, and then the show ended up running for four years.
BET.com: I've seen some social media posts from people wanting to save the show. How do you feel about that response?
Cooper: It's so beautiful. It's so beautiful to watch God work, it's so beautiful to watch community work. Because, you know, when the community believes in something, we go hard for it, you know, and I think the thing about this movement right now is that it's so much bigger than Ain't No Mo. But I think that we're trying to prove a point that works like this can exist on Broadway, and they deserve a chance and that there's an audience for them.
BET.com: What do you want people who don't live in New York to understand about the plight of being Black on Broadway?
Cooper: It is about Broadway. Yes. People fly from all over to come come see Broadway shows, which is amazing. We set the tone for what the rest of America theaters are doing--especially in community theater. But, I think that this conversation is so much larger even than Broadway, right? It's about theater, all over this country. Because I'm sure that whether you're in Detroit, if you're in Philly and you're in Dallas, if you are in New Orleans, there is somewhere around you somebody is putting on shows that include Black people in Black stories and you may not know about them.
And I think that this is is a prime example of how we let people know--that we let Black folks know and other folks of color know as well, that theater is for us. Just like you go and see a movie, just like you binge-watch shows on Netflix, you can go see a play. It is another form of entertainment and it is for you. It is not above you. It is not above you and it's not crazy expensive. We also need to continue to find ways of making it less expensive. I was very strategic and tried to get low ticket prices and Ain't No Mo had some of the lowest ticket prices on Broadway.
So I'm trying to make sure that everybody can have that experience because live theater is an art form that is necessary for the growth of humanity--and we have to invest in it as such.
BET.com: You really had some heavy hitters on your production team. Can you speak to kind of what has been the response from those folks?
Cooper: Everybody's trying to galvanize and get together to make it live, you know. Lena Waithe has really shown up hard and hit the ground running, and Lee Daniels you know, is grind and grind and grind and get this thing going. And RuPaul is hosting a night, Lena hosted last night. And Tyler Perry just bought out a house to help out, so did Will and Jada.
So, everyone's gathering together, galvanizing together to really show the community that hey, this is for you. It just needs time to for people to see it and hear about it. And thankfully, people are seeing and hearing about it now. So hopefully people buy tickets, because I think this is the thing, if we can show that work like this exists on Broadway, then it's easier for it to get done for everybody in the world to see. Right? It shows that, hey, this is a story that deserves to be seen. And we're gonna fight to make sure that it's the story for the people, we got to fight to make sure that the people get to see it.
BET.com: What can the average person outside of New York City do to support you?
Cooper: Yes, so right now, they can use the hashtag #SaveAintNoMo and try to share and get to get the story out to as many people as possible because you never know. You know, I mean, just like we travel, we travel go to Disney World are we traveling to all these other things. If you use the hashtag, you never know who might get on a plane, or who might already be in New York to come and support, and then also, it just raises the profile of the show at large he can be on New York City, right?
It allows it to be on the lips of people who may not even touch Broadway may never touch Broadway, which will help us to be able to get it filmed, so we can share it with the masses. And so we can have a bigger life and even beyond what it's doing right now. So it's a movement, you know, it's even bigger than Ain't No Mo. It's about Black theater, getting the recognition and the marketing that it deserves no matter who's in the cast, right, no matter who's in the cast, no matter if it's a story that we recognize or not. In order for Black theatre to survive. It has to survive on originality, and it has to keep growing and going and glowing.
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