Young Frankie Bates's emergence from childhood in the small town of Hill City, Kansas in the 70's is anything but normal… Because It just so happens that he's the only black boy in the entire community.
Black When I was a boy is an autobiographical recollection, of the extraordinary inner life of Frankie Bates emerging from childhood as he grows into a teenager on the streets of Hill City, Kansas in the 70's and 80's ( pop 1,500). While his friends explore and stretch their understanding of drugs, sex and rock and roll, Frankie is tasked with developing tools for survival until a life threatening encounter with a band of rednecks and a couple of heroic cowboys changes his life forever.
I was blown away by Cooper Bates' performance. He is a charismatic actor who included the entire audience. His use of the space, his movements, and his voice created characters from all walks of life and animated the story in a really unique and wonderful way. I was surprised and moved by the honesty in his performance and grateful for the opportunity to see this show.
"Black When I Was A Boy" is an outstanding and exalted production. It is flawless in acting, writing, and production. I was moved to tears and laughter. It cuts straight to the heart. It is important theatre with deep messages. Cooper has a gift for confronting painful truth with ease. He intelligence and innocence Cooper jumps across boundaries and constructs. He faces complexity head on with love and courage.
I know Cooper as a friend in real life, and he lives his truth. I am in awe of him as a performer and a human, and they come together in harmonic eloquence. I highly encourage you to see this production because it is enjoyable and deeply important to confront the issues of our time. Huge respect to Cooper Bates for your deft honesty, diving into your deepest shadows to carry a light for us all to walk in. I adore you on stage and in life.
What an exceptionally well-written and acted show. The story kept my attention the entire time and I also could sense the ongoing attention in the audience. Tears welled up in my eyes and I felt how true life is. I laughed a lot, felt great and was amazed while being led through many meaningful messages. One actor, wow! This is a marvelous solo performance, and it is dynamic, too, especially how the lighting and the transitions between scenes do such an excellent job of making a point. Cooper Bates is a talented storyteller and actor, a lot of thought, effort and practice have gone into this. Black When I Was A Boy has left a very positive impact on me. It was a fantastic time. I highly recommend going.
Cooper Bates is a virtuosic and inspiring performer! He plays such a wide range of characters and tells the story of his childhood and adolescence with the perfect mix of humor and harsh reality. I couldn't recommend this show more highly!
This show opened me up to a new way of thinking. Approaching people with assumptions of what has happened in their life and comparing it to mine has unfortunately been an unconscious part of my communication system. This ultra-powerful play showed me why that had to change. Thank you, Cooper.
What a great show! Cooper Bates is super talented and tells an intriguing and brutally honest tale of belonging, naivete, and American prejudice. His growth as a character and human being come through in every moment of this cultural and comedic one man show. I personally felt sad, funny, and connected during his performance, and I think historically, and artistically, Bates tells a story everyone in America should hear, see, and discuss.
This are the stories people need to be telling and hearing! It was good, like, "this guy should get an HBO special" good. The stories and characters he created were tactile and amazing. I never once thought to myself, "this is political theater," but it is- very political. He addresses our countries race issues with intelligence, humor and compassion by embodying unique, first hand life experiences. Simply by listening, without being "talked at" or "preached to" he gives you a real live taste of what it's been like to walk in his shoes.
man, you really got to me. i couldn't stop sobbing and you were just stating facts in a clear fashion. you are a wonderful actor with an amazing mind. yrs, michele zukovsky
I was so touched by the stories of a life that was hard to imagine that really wasn't that long ago. It took me inside Coopers head and heart as a boy just trying to grow up. So funny and heartfelt I am only sorry I didn't see it earlier so I could go again with more friends!
A truly meaningful, deeply emotional and brilliantly performed play that takes you on a journey inspiring you to want to create change and make our world a better place. Franky's story could not be any more timely! Don't think about seeing it..just do it and you will be happy you did. Thank you Cooper for this genius one man show!!! ???⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐..... If the Geffen Playhouse has radar...this should be on it.
Despite knowing Cooper for many years, his performance was deeply revealing. He has, like so many, learned to navigate between and within the world of white America and black America. His stories open our hearts and our mind to race in America and moves you to have hope. Can't wait to see how the story evolves.
This is a typo corrected review: Full disclosure: Cooper Bates is a friend of mine so I am aware of his talent and thoughtful response to life. Also, I read several rave reviews of his performance and one man play, “Black When I Was a Boy.” Still, I was not prepared for the beautiful ride on which he took my son and I, along with the rest of the audience. Starting with a simple and authentic hello and launching into his personal story, soon the space was populated with indelible characters of all races, ages, perspectives. Conversations came alive with moments of touching and tear up memories and reflections...and laughs, many held in balance with the poignancy of the story, and others bursting forth uncontrollably with recognition and joy. Young athletes and old women, school yard playmates and life threatening adversaries. This is a creative gift for anyone fortunate enough to share their heart, mind and time with Cooper and the stellar cast of his “one man” show, “Black When I Was a Boy.”
Cooper Bates takes us on a journey through his life starting as a child through entering manhood. We get an intimate view of the pains , joys, hurts, triumphs, and a roller coaster of other emotions he experiences on his life's journey. You leave the performance somewhat spent but buoyed by the resilience of the human spirit. It's an intense beautiful performance that I recommend to anyone.
Cooper's show is whole-hearted, introspectively jaw-dropping, and hopeful. He gives a view into the dynamics of racism through his growth from a tender youth to an energetic and compassionate young man. He explains how he innately developed interpersonal tools to reach through walls of stereotype to draw into focus the eyes, ears, and hearts of those who are bound behind those walls. Truely sweet and heart-wrenching.
Black When I️ Was A Boy is a fearless, unfettered and heartfelt exploration of growing up black in America. It is astounding in the first place to traverse this harrowing tale of a black boy coming of age in an alienating white environment where he can see no one like himself. It is a reckoning to witness as he navigates the looming task of unpacking what it is to be black in a country built upon the commodification of his fear - which he is routinely reminded of by incessant dehumanizing acts of verbal and physical violence. But what is so arresting and moving about this piece is the ethos of compassion, honesty, bravery and ethereal light that the artist maintains in response to such dehumanization. His perspective is so unique and yet the wisdom he offers through his actions are universal and grounding. And he does it all with such joy and humor. Through this coming of age narrative you are given a very precious seed of hope to carry while facing a world that feels incredibly divisive. The piece breathes with an engaging magnetism as the artist flawlessly maneuvers between a hefty myriad of distinct and vivid characters. You are given a thorough and visceral look into this black boy's world - the imagery is simply an absolute pleasure to watch. It is hilarious and entertaining, it's beautifully executed, it's profound and it shines with its simplicity and honesty. You'd be a sucker to miss it.
One of the best one man shows I've seen in quite a while. Bates is a dynamic story teller who has had a troubled, rich, and rewarding life. I left the show exhausted but satisfied.
This show is great. I had a wonderful time. I think Cooper is a true talent, both as a writer and an actor. I will see this show again.
I was in a fantasy dream state within the first minute of this one-man-show. I felt present among the scenery Cooper was describing. He swaps between multiple characters seamlessly and convincingly. Cooper's characters came to life for me with faces, textures, and emotion. My emotions were completely stirred. I left contemplative, eagerly waiting for more. I'm told there's more to come, and I'll be there.
This show turned out to be a surprise gem at the Fringe. I knew I was going to see a show about race, and it's easy for a show about a hot-button topic to turn into a polemic that simply preaches to the converted. Instead, Cooper Bates has woven a story that's at times hilarious and charming, but that in its often disarming humor opens a window that suddenly leaves us staring at a much bleaker landscape. It makes for theatre that is poignant, gripping and thoughtful. While it's not a perfect play—there are moments that can be tightened or developed further—it's well on its way, and well worth the price of a ticket and an hour of your time.
Cooper Bates' one man show, Black When I Was a Boy is a truly heartfelt tale of that banishment from paradise so many of us experience when we first come to learn the sinful truth: The serpent of prejudice and racial intolerance slithers through our world.
Cooper Bates' story about growing up in rural Kansas personifies resilience, the strength of character, and positivity. Go see this show and invite 50 of your closest friends to support it: Cooper's play serves as an artistic reminder to some and an educational experience to others that not everyone's childhood is filled with tolerance, love, and humanity. His storytelling is compassionate, intentional, informative, and humorous - GO SEE IT!
I absolutely loved the one-man show, “Black When I Was A Boy.” Cooper Bates tells a very powerful story. He is such a physical actor. He really embodies his characters and shifts effortlessly from one to the other. This was truly a stellar performance with beautiful storytelling! I highly recommend!
Cooper Bates held my attention and had me interested in hearing any and all of the stories he had to tell. Based on his experience growing up the only black boy in Hill City, Kansas, in the 70s, he will take you on a ride through the pain and triumphs of his life and how that shapes him to this very day. Gripping and raw. The hour flew by.
What an incredible show! Cooper is an amazing storyteller! His presence captures you the minute he steps foot on that stage! He takes you on a painful journey of racism through the eyes of a little boy, to that of a young man. I laughed and I cried. I felt every inch of the pain he endured at the ignorance of others! It's beautifully written and brilliantly performed. You are guaranteed to walk away profoundly touched.
Black when I was a Boy engages the audience from the moment the introduction is done to the very end. It is a poignant and very relatable tale of growing up that encourages self circumspection. Cooper is a remarkable ,talented actor who can bring the audience to feel the emotions and the tone of the setting. Audio visuals are good yet do not detract from observing Cooper. It is a play that one can see again and again. I highly recommend it.
What an outstanding piece of work. Cooper is a consummate performer and seeing him deliver these very personal stories from his childhood brings up a whirlwind of emotions. From the very funny, to the heartbreaking, to the rueful, and beyond. I rarely have been so moved by a one man show. But to call it a one man show feels wrong because Cooper brings so many people to life over the course of this work! Childhood friends and family alike are illustrated immaculately by his both his acting and storytelling craft. Cooper is the real deal - and this showcases his talent admirably. Bravo my friend.