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Past Production

The Shipment

By Young Jean Lee
Directed by Mina Morita and Lisa Marie Rollins
Sep 22–Oct 15
Bay Area Premiere
Venue: The Thick House

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Young Jean Lee

In THE SHIPMENT, Lee uses her razor-sharp and unsettling humor to upend the surface stereotypes and tropes of African Americans that permeate our media, entertainment industry, and the dominant culture (aka White-framed) narrative. Audiences are confronted with clichés, distortions, and brilliant sleights of hand that force us to go beyond the lampoon and shift the lens through which we perceive race in order to confront our own bias.

Please note, this play contains MATURE CONTENT.

Featuring: Nkechi Emeruwa, William Hartfield, Howard Johnson Jr., Nican Robinson, and Michael Wayne Turner III
Dramaturg: Sonia Fernandez★
Scenic Design:
  Deanna L. Zibello
Costume Design:
 Keiko Shimosato Carreiro★
Lighting Design: Heather Basarab
Sound Design: Hannah Birch Carl
Props Design: Devon LaBelle★
Choreographer: Rami Margron★
Fight Director: Carla Pantoja
Music Director: Sean Fenton
Stage Manager:
 M. Sohaa Smith★
Assistant Stage Manager: Benjamin Shiu
Production Manager: Stephanie Alyson Henderson★

★ Crowded Fire Resident Artist


Playwright’s Tough Treatment of Race — Lily Janaik, SF Chronicle 

Crowded Fire Leads Art with Innovation — Elizabeth Spreen, The Clyde Fitch Report

 “…required viewing, whether you fancy yourself enlightened in matters of race or you live in daily terror of your blind spots.” – Lily Janiak, San Francisco Chronicle

 “The Shipment confounds, delights, provokes and dazzles. Co-directed by Crowded Fire Artistic Director Mina Morita and Lisa Marie Rollins, this is contemporary theater at its most challenging and rewarding.” – Chad Jones, Theater Dogs 

“A show like “The Shipment” almost defies critique. That it’s good is almost beside the point. That it distills a hoard of experiences, frustrations, disappointments and normally unspoken critical observations into 90 minutes is self-evident. That it makes you squirm means it works.”- Adam Brinklow, Edge Media


“…unsettling, perplexing and funny…performed by an excellent five-member ensemble.”- Jean Schiffman, SF Examiner

“The excellent cast held a unified vision and sense of purpose throughout. When the actors held hands for the curtain call and bowed together, The Shipment had conferred some sacred knowledge upon them — performing the play empowered them to the same degree it unsettled the audience. This production provides further confirmation that Young Jean Lee has the ability to conjure up a rude and thrilling magic, something that’s rare to witness.”- Jeffrey Edalatpour, SF Weekly


The Shipment offers no answers to the divisiveness that has consumed our nation. Nor should it. It offers ideas and sensibilities and hurtful jokes that may or may not be funny. This is not a cozy, comfortable night of theatre. It’s better than that.”- David John Chavez, Bay Area Plays

“The only way to appreciate the brilliant performances, the rich humor, and the sheer beauty of this show is to get down there right now.”- Barry David Horwitz, Theatrius

 “But when they collapse on the floor in exhaustion, you think maybe “good” and “bad” aren’t what Lee’s after. The beauty of the opening is that it doesn’t catch us off-guard, so much as hint at what we’ve always known. Here is the cost of America’s racial drama: two exhausted African-American men, sprawled on stage and staring into space.”- John Wilkins, KQED

 “…go see The Shipment. I promise, it will be a lot more interesting than a lecture about racism in America.”- Baygasp

“the artfulness of Lee’s punkish anti-art is formidable, her work’s spiky parts carefully arranged to challenge theatergoers on issues of philosophical, psychological, and political significance.”– Brett Yates, Potrero View



An ensemble of Bay Area actors including (left to right) William Hartfield, Nican Robinson, Howard Johnson Jr., Nkechi Emeruwa, and Michael Wayne Turner III dismantle racial stereotypes in Crowded Fire’s production of THE SHIPMENT by Young Jean Lee.

Photo by Pak Han

William Hartfield and Nican Robinson open Crowded Fire’s THE SHIPMENT by Young Jean Lee with breathless, gravity-defying choreography by Rami Margron.

Photo by Pak Han

Howard Johnson Jr. portrays a comedian who “gets real” about race in one segment of Crowded Fire’s THE SHIPMENT by Young Jean Lee.

Photo by Pak Han

Howard Johnson Jr. (left) and Michael Wayne Turner III (right) are part of a five-person ensemble in Crowded Fire’s local production of Young Jean Lee’s THE SHIPMENT.

Photo by Cheshire Isaacs

Photo by Cheshire Isaacs


THE SHIPMENT Production Support: The Wattis Foundation, The Zellerbach Family Foundation

THE SHIPMENT Productions Sponsors: Luis Tamayo & David Thompson, Patricia Sakai & Richard Shapiro

2016 Corporate Season Sponsor: Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP

2016 Season Producers: Dugan MooreKarena Fiorenza Ingersoll & Emerys Ingersoll, G. Tiphane

2016 Season Support: San Franisco Arts Commission, San Francisco Foundation

General Operating Support: The Kenneth Rainin Foundation, Grants for the Arts/Hotel Tax Fund