The First Person Festival pays a visit to ‘Liberty City’

April Yvette Thompson, the award-winning actress and playwright, is bubbly but introspective, eager to explain her work, process and the experiences that shaped it. There are shades of her in the young April at the heart of “Liberty City,” although not even this budding activist can fully understand the intricacies and tragedies of 1970s Miami, where poverty, the civil rights movement, law enforcement and immigrants old and new mingled in an explosive brew.

“In many ways, this is the story of many families, not just my family,” says Thompson of “Liberty City,” her one-woman play in which she dynamically portrays her multicultural family — from her fiery intellectual father to her Bahamian grandmother — and their participation in the Black Power Movement. “As a community falls apart, as the movement falls apart, this family falls apart. It’s a sacrifice when you’re a parent to be political — my whole life was organized around my family’s activism. And what a cost that has, but also how great it is to see your parents doing what they believe in every day.”

A gifted, physical and at times hilarious performer, Thompson is as adept at recreating a kitchen perm scene as she is at single-handedly depicting a riot that resulted, to no one’s great concern, in a young black girl losing a limb. As much a product of her family, Thompson is a result of a time, a place and a movement — one that she suspects is something of a lost art. “There are causes now that people get behind, but movements with an organized agenda, we’re just not doing that the same way,” she says. “I think there is a sense of, ‘We got what we got, and what we didn’t we didn’t.’ There was a giving up, in many ways, on the American dream that we once knew we deserved. Now, we have to reorganize and relearn what we learned.”

If you go

Now in its 10th year, the First Person Festival is staging performances of documentary and memoir art across Old City through Nov. 20. For ticket and venue info about these and other festival performances, visit

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