Actor and playwright Charles Dumas has written a new play, to be performed in staged readings this weekend at Three Dots in State College. It tells the story of the police shooting of Osaze Osagie in March.
The title of Dumas’ play is “Osaze Remembering…” In excerpts from the prologue, read for us at WPSU by Charles Dumas and his wife, Jo Dumas, the audience is told up front that they’ll be exposed to various points of view on the death of Osaze Osagie.
CHARLES DUMAS: Ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, we are going to tell you a tale in three parts, each from a different perspective.
JO DUMAS: Part one is based on the official version of what happened on March 1, 2019 in the borough of State College.
CHARLES DUMAS: Part two is based on meetings, reports, observations and intuitive responses by members of the community. These folks were black and white and old and young and working class and middle class and hardly any class – just plain folk.
JOE DUMAS: Part three is yet another perspective: another view, drawn primarily from the writer’s imagination.
Dumas says he wrote this play to deal with some of the questions surrounding the death of Osagie, who was shot by police as they tried to serve him with a mental health warrant. The local DA report said the shooting was justifiable.
“There are those in the community, and I am among them, that think that there’s more to it than that,” Dumas said. “And so we have questions. And those questions continue, and we want them to be looked at with a little bit more depth. The fact that Osaze is an African man, who was 29 years old. The fact that the police officers were all white. We’re not suggesting that that is unimportant, or is the crucial thing in this incident. But it is a factor. We live in a time of White Supremacy. Even in our beloved Happy Valley. And we want to investigate what were the feelings involved in this time. We know that Osaze was having issues; probably was off his medication. There was a knife involved. There’s a whole bunch of things. So therefore, what I’m doing is bringing the official report: part one. And then part two is some of the reactions from the community. And part three, I’m not going to tell you because that’s the secret. That’s the drama.”
Dumas is a friend of Osagie’s parents. And he says what happened to them gives him pause.
“One of the problems we have: we’re talking about the Osagies who are African scholars,” he said. “They are members of our community. They are professors. It was their child, their 29-year-old child who was killed. I have children and grandchildren. This has me asking myself questions about whether or not I would call the police under a similar circumstance. Because I’m not sure what would happen.”
Despite his concerns, Dumas said, he strives in his play to present both the point of view of the police and the feelings of the community.
“So that what we’re doing in this play is to sort of present it from different perspectives,” he added, “but also involving the audience. So that you will hear facts, but you will also see attitudes.”
Dumas said he hopes the play will help bring the community together to better understand the issues surrounding the Osagie case.
“For me, I think that is the primary function of art. To help us live through the day, to help us see life from a different perspective. Probably the most important thing to understand is seeing the world through others’ shoes,” Dumas said. “I think it’s all about building community. And art is essential to building community. It’s not just about entertainment. It’s not just about making us laugh and clap our hands and jump up and down and dance, although that’s part of it, hopefully. But it is also helping us understand each other so we can build community.”
The Loaves and Fish Theatre Company presents staged readings of “Osaze Remembering…” by Charles Dumas, Friday & Saturday at 7:30pm at Three Dots in downtown State College. You’ll find details on WPSU’s the community calendar.