‘Brothers from the Bottom’ at the Billy Holiday Theatre

Wendell Pierce stars in Fort Greene play about gentrification

Brooklyn Daily
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The stars are coming out in Fort Greene.

A new play being staged by the Billie Holiday Theatre on March 6–29 will feature television and movie actor Wendell Pierce, best known for his work in “The Wire,” “Treme,” and “Selma.” The play’s writer and director said Pierce will help put the Bedford-Stuyvesant theater on the map.

“Aside from being a great actor, he can attract more of an audience then we’re accustomed to,” said Jackie Alexander, who also serves as the artistic director of the Billie Holiday Theatre. “That’s what a big-name actor does. But we think the work will keep bringing people back.”

Alexander’s play “Brother’s from the Bottom” tells the story of two brothers from New Orleans who butt heads over a development plan that threatens to gentrify a local neighborhood. Pierce plays one of the brothers, who Alexander said resembles the actual actor a great deal, as both are activists and champions of the Big Easy.

“He has a real connection to the story,” Alexander said. “He is that guy in New Orleans.”

In the play, one brother supports the looming development project and sees it as a way to restore an area ravaged by Hurricane Katrina, while the other thinks the project will permanently displace residents that used to live there. Both siblings feel their view of the plan is right, and neither is capable of understanding why the other does not agree. Alexander said this inability to see eye to eye is something he often notices in discussions about gentrification, in his own family and in the community that houses the Billie Holiday Theatre.

“Gentrifica­tion is the biggest issue facing Bed-Stuy right now,” he said. “But this issue causes people to shut down.”

The show first ran in 2010, but after a heated panel discussion following a screening last year of “My Brooklyn,” a documentary about Downtown gentrification, Alexander decided to bring the play back. He said the conversation ground to a halt.

“For some people, it’s the worst thing that could ever happen, for others it’s going to change things for the better,” Alexander said.

The playwright said he intends for his story to provide both sides of the argument, and to force everyone to hear both out.

“I wanted people to sit and listen,” he said. “And they have to in a theater.”

The production will be at the Brooklyn Music School Playhouse on Saint Felix Street and is the first show in a two-year residency there while Billie Holliday’s home theater in Restoration Plaza is getting its first major renovation.

“Brothers from the Bottom” at the Brooklyn Music School Playhouse (126 Saint Felix St. between Hanson Place and Lafayette Avenue in Fort Greene, March 6–29. Fridays at 8 pm; Saturdays at 3 and 8 pm; Sundays at 2 and 7 pm. $20–$30.

Reach reporter Matthew Perlman at (718) 260–8310. E-mail him at Follow him on Twitter @matthewjperlman.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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