The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

January 15, 2014

Performance addresses self-discovery

BY CAROL ROEHM croehm@dancomnews.com
The Commercial-News

---- — DANVILLE — The Danville Public School Foundation will present a free public performance of “Incognito,” a one-man play starring Michael Sidney Fosberg. The performance will begin at 6 p.m. Jan. 23, in Dick Van Dyke Auditorium at Danville High School.

The free community performance is one of three local performances, and the only one available to the public. Fosberg also will perform for the high school students as well as both North Ridge and South View middle school students during the school day. Each 50-minute performance will be followed by 20 minutes of question-and-answer time.

Bob Richard, executive director of the Danville Public School Foundation, said District 118 Associate Superintendent Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat first saw Fosberg perform in Peoria and inquired whether he could come to Danville to perform.

“It was very captivating, enlightening and educational,” Desmoulin-Kherat said. “I had a couple of high school students with me (at the performance), and they couldn’t stop talking about it.

“In terms of diversity, it does a nice job of educating the audience,” she said of Fosberg’s story. “He takes a difficult topic and makes it palatable and educational.”

Richard described the performance as “having six or seven different parts.”

“It details his journey after discovering he was part African-American and reconnecting with his African-American family,” Richard said. “He explains how some people — on both sides of the family – accepted him and how some didn’t.”

Richard added that the lesson to be learned is: “It’s not about the label; it’s about the person.”

At the age of 34, Fosberg began a quest to find his biological father some 25 years ago. Along the way, he uncovered surprising information that would forever change the dynamics of his family.

Armed only with the name of his father and the knowledge that he had lived in the Detroit area two decades earlier, Fosberg makes a phone call that uncovered long-concealed family secrets; primarily, that his biological father is African-American.

“Incognito” is the resulting performance about Fosberg’s emotion-packed personal journey of self-discovery.

Along the journey, Fosberg discovered the roots of his rich African-American heritage dating back to slavery, which includes a possible family tie to the great abolitionist John Brown, a great-grandfather who was a member of the 54th regiment in the colored infantry, his grandmother’s father who was an all-star pitcher in the Negro Leagues and his grandfather who holds numerous honors throughout the community of Norfolk/Virginia Beach while helping to establish the science and physics department at Norfolk State University.

Fosberg, who is a professional performing artist, has been performing “Incognito” since 2001 across the United States to critical acclaim. He recently released his memoir, “Incognito: An American Odyssey of Race & Self-Discovery,” which delves more deeply into his personal account of familial discovery upon which the one-man play is based.

In an ever-growing multiracial, multicultural world, Fosberg’s story has universal appeal. The performance promises to have something for everyone with its many-layered tale, whether it’s the quest to find a father, the impact of divorce, or the difficulties of race and acceptance based on the idea of how identities are constructed.

The free performance for the community is being sponsored by Danville High School as part of its Black History Month activities. It is being made possible by the donors of the Danville Public School Foundation, Mervis Industries and the HALO Project of Presence United Samaritans Medical Center’s Foundation.

“The high school has a tradition of bringing in an event for Black History Month, so we believe this performance will fill that need perfectly,” Richard said.

COMING UP The Danville Public School Foundation will present a free public performance of "Incognito," a one-man play starring Michael Sidney Fosberg. The performance will be held at 6 p.m. Jan. 23, at the Dick Van Dyke Auditorium of Danville High School.