At Strand this month: the politics of Black hair, community activism

Francisca Da Silveira, left, who wrote the play ‘can I touch it?’ is shown with director Summer L. Williams. Christian Ruiz photo

Company One Theatre will bring a new play about the politics of Black hair and the power of community activism to the Strand Theatre’s stage this month. Titled “can i touch it?”, the play will run from July 23 through August 13.

Its playwright, Francisca Da Silveira, a Cape Verdean American, is based in Boston and calls both Dorchester and Roxbury home.
“I grew up walking by the Strand every single day, most likely either running after the No. 17 or the No. 15 bus,” she said. Now, she is seeing her dream of having a play at the Strand come true. 

The drama follows Shay Solomon, the owner of a beauty supply store and a neighborhood activist, in her very real fight to preserve both her business and her community as gentrification creeps into Dorchester and Roxbury. 

Company One, a Boston-based company, has spent the years since its founding in 1998 using marginalized and alternative narratives to become a company that focuses on both artistic production and social justice. 

When Summer L. Williams, the director of “can i touch it?” and a co-founder of Company One, and the other co-founders discussed starting a theatre company while at Clark University in Worcester, she had “zero idea” of what that would take. But that was what the company needed in order to break the model of traditional theatre and incorporate ideas like Company One’s “newest iteration,” Theatre as Public Art, she said.

“Theatre ought to be and ought to feel like a public good,” Williams said. With this in mind, Company One instituted a pay-what-you-want model for their tickets, with a $0 minimum.

Theatre has historically operated upon “adhering to a capitalist structure” regarding profits and value, Williams said. “There’s a real power in saying, ‘No, this is here for you,’” she said. “It is for our community. You get to partake and then you get to decide how you want to throw your weight behind this.”

Community engagement, a key part of “can i touch it?”, continues offstage, too. Company One is sponsoring several events throughout Boston before and during the play’s run. 

Leading up to the premiere, Company One and Wee the People, a social justice project for children, hosted a free story time and workshop at the Boston Public Library’s Roxbury branch last Thursday. June 30.

This sort of Branch Out event, as the company calls it, is a way to bring the ideas the play works through to the attention of the audience without them having seen the play yet. 

On July 29 at 10 a.m., student groups primarily in grades 9 through 12 will be invited to attend a student matinee. On Fri., Aug. 5, the Strand and Company One will host a Teen Night Out, consisting of a performance of the play and a pre-show event at 6 p.m. to bring Boston teens together to discuss what the play is about and connect over ideas of justice and activism.

“It is a conversation that they will need to be having in a few short years,” Williams said.

To purchase or reserve tickets, and to find out more about the community-wide events, visit

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