“An Octoroon” Questions Everything, Including Our Cultural Lexicon For Discussing Race
Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ 2014 script is a satirization of a 1859 melodrama, The Octoroon. (Jacobs-Jenkins is black; the original playwright, Dion Boucicault, was white.) Wearing whiteface, actor Joseph Gibson plays George, a slave owner who’s just inherited a bankrupt plantation and who’s in love with a woman named Zoe (Alex Ramirez de Cruz). Zoe is in love with him too, but the antebellum South has outlawed their potential marriage because Zoe is one-eighth black.