On the stage of the Iron Triangle Theater, 8-year-old Sayidah Woods leans over her copy of the book Richmond Tales: Lost Secrets of the Iron Triangle, absorbed in the adventures of Maisha and Mario. The book tells the story of two friends who take a journey to learn the history behind the Iron Triangle.
Their journey takes them back to Richmond in Ohlone times; to Richmond in 1915 when it was a small, but bustling, industrial city; and to Richmond in 1942 when World War II and the Home Front dramatically changed the city. Maisha and Mario also travel forward in time, when they have grown up and helped make Richmond a beautiful and peaceful place to live.
Woods’ interest in Richmond Tales is professional as well as personal: she will star as Maisha in an upcoming play at the East Bay Center for the Performing Arts that was adapted from the book.
“I got really excited when I heard I would play Maisha,” Woods said. She sat on the stage, hair braided in ponytails, and swung her legs as she spoke. “The best thing is that I’ll get to learn more about Richmond – and I live just three blocks away from the Iron Triangle!”
Lost Secrets of the Iron Triangle will premiere at the East Bay Center for the Performing Arts on May 17 and will play again throughout the month. Written by author Summer Brenner, produced by Jordan Simmons and directed by Britney Frasier, the play is an effort to revive the history behind the city of Richmond.
“Kids in the Richmond school district are actually reading the book now, so a lot of teachers are going to bring their students here,” said Frasier, who hopes to capture the book’s popularity and success on stage. “But also, I think we are going to draw an older audience that might not be from Richmond and they will have the opportunity to learn something about this land.”
The play runs through events of Richmond’s past, from the days of the Indians into the 20th century waves of immigration that shaped Richmond’s modern neighborhoods. People who have read the book will realize that the staged version of Maisha and Mario’s narrative has been “slightly” adapted, said Frasier, who was responsible for dramatizing Brenner’s script.
“The biggest change from the book to the play is that the play is based on Maisha’s dream, and in the book everything happens in real life,” she said.
The play begins with the main character Maisha reading the Richmond Tales book. When her mother puts her to bed for the evening, the girl begins dreaming about “a fantastic world” where Misty Horn, a time traveler in the Iron Triangle, comes out of the moon to join her on a trip. Together, they time travel and explore Richmond’s history.
“Why the Iron Triangle is the way it is now? Why was it called that in the first place?” Maisha asks the character Misty Horn.
“Her curiosity is “about these things she cannot comprehend that were created by adults,” Frasier said. “There is a lot of violence in Richmond, a lot of domestic violence issues, but there is also happiness here.”
Although in the play the constant questioning about Richmond originates from the children’s curiosity, the purpose is to teach everyone more about the city’s history, Frasier said, including senior citizens who have never had the opportunity to learn about their own land.
“What I most like about this play is to be able to tell people who are much older than I am important facts about this city,” said 26-year-old actor Maurice Choncey Nunn, who plays the role of Misty Horn. Nunn is a Richmond resident and although he considers himself “very involved in the community,” he also said he didn’t know much about his city until he joined the crew.
“That’s the main reason why I’m so engaged in this play now,” he said. “At school, we’ve never talked about Richmond’s history. We can always talk about Christopher Columbus coming to America, but we can’t talk about the land that we walk on.”
Lost Secrets of the Iron Triangle will be presented at the East Bay Center for the Performing Arts on May 17, 18, 24 and 25 at 7 p.m. Sunday matinee on May 19 and 26 at 3 p.m. For more information, visit: events www.richmondcarotary.org/lost-secrets-of-the-iron-triangle