Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy ride: This statement could easily describe being Black in America, and Jordan E. Cooper is bringing that journey to life on Broadway for another week after a successful social media campaign.
His play “Ain’t No Mo’” offers a glimpse at what happens when Black people have a chance to leave America with a one-way ticket to Africa. Exploring race, class, incarceration, abortion and other issues, the production is part “sketch, satire, avant garde theater, and a dose of drag,” its website reads. At times, “Ain’t No Mo’” is laugh-out-loud funny; in other moments, audience members might shed a tear.
Cooper stars as Peaches, a flight attendant on the final trip of African American Airlines Flight 1619. “Ain’t No Mo’” made him the youngest Black American playwright in Broadway history at just 27 years old.
But on Dec. 9, Cooper posted online that his play had received an “eviction notice” from Broadway just one week after opening. The news meant “Ain’t No Mo’” would hold its final performance Sunday, Dec. 18, the playwright said.
“It’s a new original play that’s BLACK AF, which are both things that make it hard to sell on Broadway,” Cooper wrote in his post, adding that fans have described the production as “the best theatrical experience of their life.”
Cooper launched the hashtag #SaveAintNoMo to bring awareness of the pending closure and rally support for the play. In response, celebrities such as Jada Pinkett Smith, Will Smith, Tyler Perry, Gabrielle Union, Dwyane Wade and Shonda Rhimes have all bought out performances of “Ain’t No Mo.’”
Emmy winner Lena Waithe, meanwhile, helped host the show this week. Waithe had recently joined the list of powerhouse producers behind “Ain’t No Mo,’” which also includes Lee Daniels and “Slave Play” writer Jeremy O. Harris.
Then, in an update at Thursday night’s show, Cooper announced that the production’s Broadway run had been extended, according to Deadline — meaning theatergoers now have until Dec. 23 to see the show.
“Ain’t No Mo’” premiered in 2019 at The Public Theater in New York and earned Cooper a special citation at the Obie Awards, which recognizes off-broadway and off-off-Broadway productions.
Years prior, Cooper had a run-in with the police that made him question his worth in America. He had walked into a 7-Eleven convenience store to purchase a Slurpee when an officer made him think twice about his next move.
“I remember reaching upward to get a red slushie, and the police officer there tapped his gun and winked at me,” Cooper said, recalling that the incident happened around the time that Alton Sterling and Philando Castile had been fatally shot by police in July 2016.
“If Black people give so much to this country, then why are they considered worthless?” he said he asked himself at the time.
Black people have always “possessed the ability to turn shit into sugar,” Cooper said. So, he wanted to spread humor amid tumultuous times with “Ain’t No Mo.’” He described the play as a “love letter to Black culture.”
Cooper aimed to create a space for Black Americans — and not one that was necessarily palatable to other races.
“Black people were dragged to this country, stripped of our identity, and had to build our culture up from sticks and stones,” Cooper said. “We have to laugh in the face of our pain and use dark comedy to find the light in those painful moments.”