Pittsburgh Public Theater Playtime, in partnership with Fleetwood-Jourdain Theatre (FJT), will offer a free presentation of “Fires in the Mirror” by Anna Deavere Smith at 6 p.m. on Aug. 20. The play is directed by FJT Artistic Director Tim Rhoze and features Professor Bria Walker, FJT Associate Director.

Pittsburgh Public Theater’s PlayTime is an online play reading series which takes place each Thursday at 7 p.m. EDT/6 p.m. CDT. The events are free of charge, but all donations received during the presentation will be shared with the artists involved. 

About “Fires in the MIrror”

On Monday, Aug. 19, 1991, at around 8:20 p.m., in a small enclave in Brooklyn, New York, two Black children, a boy and a girl playing with their bicycle on Utica Avenue, were accidentally struck by one of the vehicles in the motorcade of the Grand Rebbe, the leader of the Chabad, a Jewish religious movement.

The young boy, 7-year-old Gavin Cato, tragically died. His seven year-old cousin Angela was seriously injured. The intense moments that immediately followed and the riotous aftermath over the next three days, including the murder of Yankel Rosebaum, a Jewish Australian graduate student, would expose this unique enclave, called Crown Heights, as a powder keg awaiting to be ignited.

In the years leading up to the infamous 1991 event, the Hasidic Jewish community, as well as the African American and Caribbean American communities, wrestled with defining, defending and maintaining cultural and racial identities in the borough’s close quarters.

One of America’s most accomplished playwrights and performers, Anna Deavere Smith, set out to interview over 100 people who were either directly connected to the actual accident and the ensuing riots, or were notable people who had a profoundly visceral response to it.

Ms. Smith ultimately selected 26 of the 100 interviews and shaped them into a profoundly groundbreaking one-woman play called “Fires In the Mirror: Crown Heights, Brooklyn and Other Identities.” This play invites the audience to hear first-hand eye witness accounts, conjectures and introspective commentary from multiple points of view.

Viewers are encouraged to check their prejudices at the door.

To start streaming go to www.ppt.org/playtime and use the password PlayTime; or visit the Pittsburgh Public Theatre Facebook page facebook.com/pittsburghpublictheatre.

Donations can be sent to Fleetwood-Jourdain Theatre Noyes Cultural Arts Center 927 Noyes Street Evanston, IL 60201; checks should be payable to Fleetwood-Jourdain Theatre.