The August Wilson Red Door Project has been partnering with local law enforcement for over two years. In 2016, we began presenting Hands Up: 7 Playwrights, 7 Testaments to Portland audiences. Hands Up contains experiences of black men and women who have been profiled by police. In 2017, the Portland Police Bureau invited us to perform Hands Up for police-only audiences. The conversation, sharing, and learning that occurred among the officers and the Hands Up cast were remarkable.
Through this developing relationship with law enforcement, we realized there were compelling stories to be told about the lived experience of police. We hired playwrights from across the country to interview officers and capture these stories, and Cop Out: Beyond Black, White & Blue premiered in 2018. Audience reaction to Cop Out demonstrated a recognition of the complexity of the relationship between law enforcement and communities of color.
We believe that recognizing this complexity stimulates the conversation in a new and different way, one that can help us bridge a seemingly intractable divide.