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Brian Copeland rises to dramatic heights with 'The Scion' murders in San Leandro

Brian Copeland's solo show 'The Scion' at the Marsh Theater


Brian Copeland’s new solo, a comedic and brilliant drama about affluenza, racial profiling and the privileged getting away with murder, “The Scion”, must close at the Marsh in San Francisco’s Mission District in mid April after the current extension, since he’s starting the tenth anniversary performance of his “Not a Genuine Black Man” at Berkeley Rep in April. It’s a must see for those who want to witness a maturing Copeland rising to new diplomatic and dramatic heights.

Brian Copeland fans after 'The Scion' meet the performer and get copies signed of his book "Not a Genuine Black Man".
Cindy Warner
Brian Copeland meets fans and signs books after 'The Scion'
Cindy Warner

Copeland is also wry, poignant and articulate as usual particularly with his opening about being a black man walking when it comes to getting stopped by the police for no reason, one of his classics to which Chris Rock has the answer: Chris Rock, How Not to Get Your Butt Kicked by the Police.

As in the 'Best Picture' front runner at the Oscars tomorrow, 'American Hustle', the United States government tends to target politicians who rule based on family and not on fair business practices and consumer rights.

Please note that while ideally the inspectors are public servants in 'The Scion' case, working folks with children and grandchildren, they didn't deserve to die in the line of duty. However, in other cases such as the next big mortgage scandal, the government has been bought by big banks with impugnity. Here is what happened to me personally and I finally blogged about it in the third person. As one comedian says, everybody has something in their closet to come out about. As I say, you are not alone.

Let Americans pursue their dreams and happiness

Specifically, the student loan crisis has arisen because a segment of the population was stripped of their rights to protection by the Republicans pressuring Bill Clinton. We as consumers and citizens desperately need the re-instatement of basic protections like bankruptcy protection to prevent abuse by predatory lenders. Hillary Clinton has at least twice tried to pass a Student Borrower Bill of Rights to this end and a bill is currently gathering co-sponsors. Please read this blog to the end for contact information and links.

About 'The Scion'. It’s also compelling and cogent for those students of sociology and racial issues and media particularly in light of the Zimmerman trial and national news plus the continual flow of scandal stories involving the wealthy, such as the latest Kennedy to be accused of something criminal only to argue innocence. That’s what a scion is, the spawn or progeny of the well known, usually a notable family rather than an infamous one. It’s also a twig or shoot of a new plant that’s to be cut for grafting.

Tonight, March first, would have been closing night for this solo show, another set in San Leandro my home town but this time much less autobiographical and much more sociological, a one man documentary where Copeland as he does, plays all the parts brilliantly under the direction of David Ford. The show moves fast and takes plot twists and turns as Copeland introduces new characters to illustrate his points and weave themes together.

Some story lines sound as if they evolve from the same material and time period as “Not a Genuine Black Man” as Copeland opens with how differently he was always treated by San Leandro police in the 1970s, being constantly harassed for just being a black man walking. He talks about being questioned by police for just being a passenger in a car driven by a young White woman named Cindy, whom he was helping move into a new apartment in San Leandro because he wanted to date her.

He was 19 and said when young men will do anything for even a remote possibility of having sex. He made a joke about how at 40 even being teased or propositioned sexually is just too much trouble to get up and walk across the street for. He even while a professional performer in hisyounger days was questioned for being a rapist and had to prove he was out working or in public. Hence, a basis for a deep mistrust of authorities arising from incorrect racial profiling, i.e. bigotry and racism that was institutionalized and organized.

Related: 'Geezer' at the Marsh

Copeland was not famous or rich enough to escape suspicion and garner special treatment, that is until he got much older. He tells a universal truth about how the poor get nothing for free yet the famous get gifts and freebies without asking. Yet some suffer from affluenza, the state of being a scion and so used to getting away with everything that one commits crimes just because one knows one can, like that white boy in Texas who killed four people recently yet escaped prison. In Texas.

Ford has Copeland standing in different parts of the stage as he plays different characters and also suddenly lifting that veil the audience sees a performer through, making direct eye contact and closing in on personal space with individuals in the front row. Don’t worry, it requires nothing of those addressed. The sound effects start out really fun and nostalgic, making fun of the law and the justice system on television with sound bites from Dragnet and God forbid, Judge Judy. Locals will visualize the location itself since Copeland mentions commonlyknown identifiers such as Estudillo, the busy street downtown leading to 580 and near Copeland’s house.

However the re-enactment from the real transcripts of the real video surveillance tapes showing the grisly and cold hearted, calm murders of unarmed USDA compliance and health inspectors—that’s sad and chilling and sobering to say the least. Copeland has effectively orchestrated all his illustrations to a serious point and then gives the audience comic relief with a short cooling out period to wrap up the show. He notes the scene of the murders, the Santos Linguisa Factory near the San Leandro BART station, remains empty.

Related: San Leandro police respond with guns and rifles to call for help regarding despondent man Feb. 2014

You leave feeling psyched about his gifted oratory skills, his dignity and earthiness and strong heart, as if you have seen a famous attorney like Gregory Peck’s Atticus Finch. Incidentally Peck graduated from UC Berkeley, a bastion of free speech and human rights with more Nobel Prize winners on the faculty than any other university. Copeland asks, in defense of those in the government who try to protect us and our health and safety, how do we decide who is dangerous and who to protect us.

Copeland began this run soon after the Christmas season’s solo show debut of “The Jewelry Box”, his story about how as a young boy he innocently and honestly raised the fortune it took to buy his mother something she had left behind. He wanted to make her happy after the family’s move from Texas to Oakland in the 1970s to get away from her husband and start a new life. That life as most know is that of “Not a Genuine Black Man”, which Copeland says is now in many libraries including Harvard’s and taught in colleges. Check out the spontaneous video of me chatting for a minute with Copeland after the show tonight.

In closing, I should note that experiencing Copeland’s shows brings forth old memories and traumas for me that I happened to experience growing up in San Leandro’s Manor neighborhood, where I still live in the house I grew up in near Marina High School or rather the Marina community center.

I rarely experienced hearing or seeing racism in this protected, sheltered 1950s type of small town. The kids on my block played kick the can, Mother May I, hide and go seek. We trick or treated, rode bicycles and roller skated, cruised the strip on East 14th, packed the station wagon or whatever to go to the drive in theater to see “Blazing Saddles” or the “Exorcist”. I never smoked, did drugs or drank and wasn’t sexually active—I was a lonely overachiever headed only for UC Berkeley and out of a miserable home life, if you could call it a home life at all.

Related: One woman shows

Recently at the “Sausage and Suds” festival downtown near the Englander I did run into some women who had been song-leaders on the same rally squad as I was on in 1976 when I was a junior. Some have remained lifelong friends—Donna, Nancy, Linda along with MaryAnn the athlete. We danced together to live salsa and to a fabulous nerd band. Here are the pix. Sausage is something to celebrate with and wash down with beer but it's not to die for.

San Leandro's Sausage & Suds Festival 2013

So as a white girl in public school in the Manor I was with the same kids all my childhood although we did experience bigotry and misogyny, the gloves coming off when I returned in 2000 after my divorce from Tracy. Tracy and I had a problem with abuse and domestic violence for more than ten years and my entire family knew about it as did his. I wondered if his mother being a deputy district attorney and now a criminal attorney had something to do with his lack of remorse and twelve year history of abuse even with police awareness.

Tracy was surrounded by lawyers as he worked in the file room for a corporate real estate law firm his entire working life until the place went out of business a couple of years ago, the same place—Morgan Miller &Blair in Walnut Creek, an affluent white suburb of Mt. Diablo. I wondered if even as the only male on the staff he had gone postal, even if it suited his submissive nature. Our marriage was platonic and we had started out as great companions who just loved the outdoors and our golden retrievers.

To the manor born.

I returned to the Manor tract house I grew up in during the 70s, after the divorce in 2000. The few remaining male neighbors, who had been the head of their household, had retired and had zero to do all day, 24/7. One Bill Fuller, a former truck driver I was told had a long police record and had taken to tormenting me. His wife was long dead and he and his ex-con son Robbie Fuller would scream at me, Robbie chasing my car when I tried to leave and throwing his beer can at it; coming to the front door of my house and yelling obscenities through the locked screen at me when I was home alone; making loud noises and banging objects in his garage when he saw me to create a hostile and intimidating environment.

Eventually since he had been under house arrest the police put him back in jail but he’s out and living in an unincorporated part of San Leandro with his brother, according to the police recently. The father Bill Fuller died and the daughter Cindy Fuller rents the house to pot smokers, it smells like. Her lifelong friend and neighbor one night sat on her front porch smoking pot out in the open, the stench always wafted after dinner. My new beau says American pot smells like dirt.

The next door neighbor to my right died too, a lifelong cigarette smoker and Mormon, Harvey Carlson from Utah. I knew when I saw the arm load of rifles being carried out and away. He would watch me from his porch as he smoked, coming outside even late at night to watch me come home after the opera or some blog event. One day he pretended to squirt me with his hose. How Freudian or just plain creepy. He would always spit into his bushes when he walked outside.

Pot smokers live next door to the left and also directly across the street, the home of the scion of the Santos family although not necessarily the Santos family of the Santos Linguisa Factory infamy. This would be the deposed Tony Santos, a former mayor. Actually the Santos of the linguisa factory murders ran for mayor but his abusive past kept him from being elected.

So back to the scion of the mayor Tony Santos. His daughter. Mother of his three grandsons. This housewife with her sons who no longer need her. Although this house wife yells from her porch or garage or lawn across the street at me, I never learned her name but she’s always in a sweatshirt, a heavy set woman who always sounds drunk as if she’s heckling at a baseball game or a Raider’s game.

Related: The Pornographer's Daughter

Nothing is sacred. The day after Christmas this year I went out at 7:30 in the morning to put the garbage out and she started screaming at me from inside her garage, that she was going to report me for having a fire in the fireplace because it was a spare the air day. I had complained to one of her three sons about constantly playing loud rap music from his car and disturbing me a few times a day as he came and went.

Related: Brian Copeland's new solo show for Christmas, 'The Jewelry Box'

I told the young and handsome white police officer that pulled up to my house one night as I rode home on my bicycle that I wished things were like they were when I was a child, we all played together and these parents and their kids didn’t smoke pot as if it were legal. They were the same houses that seemed to have problems with common courtesy and neighborliness. I felt that because one of the pot houses were the Santos family, the daughter of the former mayor Tony Santos, that the pot smokers surrounding my house seemed to be particularly aggressive.

My psychiatrist told me, just offer her a pie. Brilliant, yes, the wife Karen is not only about 160 pounds but she should have the munchies. Karen like her father appears to be short and fat although he’s bald and wears glasses and he went to SF State, a school of no consequence generally. He is not from San Leandro either so reallyhas no business trying to run the place as if he’s the patriarch. Is that the image we want for San Leandro, no. San Leandro, the former self-proclaimed cherry capitol which still holds a cherry festival annually with no home-grown cherries, also has a history of being home to many Portuguese and that’s how Santos got elected even though he has a face only a mother could love.

He proceeded to sell out San Leandro before he was pushed out of office by Stephen Cassidy. He said he would allow building of low income housing at the San Leandro BART station near the Santos Linguisa Factory, because our children would like to live near their parents in San Leandro but cannot afford the $400,000 homes. However, his own children do not live in housing for the poor. They live across the street from me, in a $400,000 nice little tract home on a quiet, clean corner full of the decendants of the original families who bought the homes new in the mid 1950s for $24,000. Santos appears to be a lying hypocrite with a double standard regarding his own family and those of the constituents.

Personally, since the Santos scion across the street from me has been loud and obnoxious even though I have a right to quietly enjoy my own home and I’m 54, I felt the woman and her three sons and husband were abusing whatever derivative authority she thought she had being the daughter of the mayor Tony Santos. She’s a bully. She may be a desperate housewife but she’s still a bully.

I feel she and the other pot smoking houses near me have been ganging up on me and conducting unlawful surveillance, watching me and my day to day activities such as planting flowers in front of the house. The neighbor next door actually accosts my visitors who come to help me since I had surgery and had to stay off my feet. The man, a 60 year old Mexican living in the house next door, asks my visitors what they are doing and who they are here to see when they are in their cars in front of my house and even in my own drive way.

Consequently it’s no accident or even good luck that the current mayor, Stephen Cassidy, defeated Tony Santos and Cassidy is a consumer attorney not some buffoon. That’s the point Copeland was addressing, one cannot operate above the law based on family even if a scion and that consumers have rights and deserve to be protected by government agents who have thankless jobs to say the least.

Related: Call your legislator about restoring consumer protection re student loans

San Leandro's Congressional representative is Barbara Lee in Oakland, (510) 763-0370.

Save our arts and culture from big banks and fraud

Note last year Romney said to let Americans pursue their dreams so indeed, let Americans pursue their dreams by freedom from crippling student debt

For more stories by this writer check out CBS San Francisco's website under Eye on the Bay, San Francisco arts & culture "Best Of"; and San Francisco Arts & Culture on Subscribe by hitting the SUBSCRIBE button at the top of this article. (America's Cup SF photos and links)

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