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Carlyle Brown returns to the stage with “The History of Religion”

Updated: Apr 17

In “The History of Religion” Carlyle Brown asks his audience to reckon with a single question: In a world full of sorrow and suffering, what makes life worth living?

“Religious text is some of the most profound prose written by human beings,” said Brown. “The kinds of things that they require when you talk about the Divine was kind of a challenge I wanted to take on as a writer and as a Black artist who associates with the culture and diaspora and Afro Atlantic culture.”

Carlyle says “The History of Religion” is inspired by the African oral tradition. The show centers around a divine teller of tales who passes on stories from the ancestors.

“The History of Religion” is a one-man show, but Carlyle is accompanied on stage by a musical ensemble led by Victor Zupanc.

Carlyle has written and starred in many one-man shows; he says he enjoys the ‘aliveness’ of theater, its democratic nature, and how the audience participates in the experience.

“They just sort of unanimously come to an agreement that ‘we're gonna believe this until it becomes unbelievable,’” reflected Brown. “When you're a solo performer and you go on stage, the first thing you notice - if you're receptive to it - is that the people want you to be okay. They recognize your vulnerability, and they want you to be okay, and they also want it to be okay.”

Carlyle says that the energy of the audience is so concentrated that a performer can’t help but submit to that relationship. “The History of Religion,” directed by Noël Raymond, runs at the Illusion Theater in Minneapolis July 15 - 24.

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