This new trek back in school has been quite a ride. I have had to re-visit plays that I haven’t read in years and finally buckle down and read plays that I should’ve read as a theatre-goer years ago. This past semester, the plays that stood out were Antigone, King Lear, Oedipus, Lysistrata, The Blind Man and the Monkey, Othello and The Birds. There were over 20 plays read so I know I am missing out on some that I really enjoyed but those have stuck around in my brain for some reason. This was a theatre history class so it encompassed stage settings, background information and costuming considerations as well. Reading the plays and discussing, within a constructed outline, would be idea for reading such an array of plays. The challenge for me came with having to assimilate these into weekly writings and discussions demonstrating a personal understanding. So here’s the thing…
I posted my picture because I am black. I am a black woman living through a pandemic and watching people that look like me get murdered on national television. And then I had to play make believe with these plays and immerse them in conversations in my life…? So I am attending my first PWI and I am the ONLY black woman in the class, excuse me, the only black PERSON period. I remember this became an issue for me the week of Breonna Taylor’s murderers indictment. They began discussing King Lear as if nothing had happened. There was still a dance in their eyes and lightness in their smiles. I remember looking at their faces on the zoom call and it looked as if not one of them had been affected. I brought it up during my segment of the discussion and their silence was blaringly loud. The younger me would’ve felt sorry they had to connect with “that” conversation but I dismissed their wandering, uncomfortable eyes and actually hoped they sat in those emotions even if just for a few seconds.
The above mentioned plays would be great in a contemporary setting with a diverse cast and even all black. I would especially love to see this done with Antigone and Lysistrata. With the current theatre platforms, including #WeSeeYou and a push for anti-racist curriculums and theatre programming, these adaptations would be more accessible than when I went through my BA program yeeeeaaaarrrrs ago.
For this coming semester I reviewed the syllabus ahead of time so I am getting ahead of the readings/reviews for: The Cherry Orchard, Waiting for Godot, Death of a Salesman, Fences, Streetcar Named Desire, Dutchman and some other classics. I am in this program to remind them that there are black theatre classics as well from Angelina Grimke, Douglass Turner Ward, James Baldwin, Adrienne Kennedy, George C. Wolfe and others. Personal research and what one chooses to focus on is one thing but when it comes to teaching core classes to budding theatre practitioners Professors have the responsibility to come out of their comfort zones and present a TRUE representation of the theatre world.
“Stories centered around Black Women occupy an oppressive gaze that silences her voice. In these stories, the performance of her voice is used to the benefit of the protagonist and written in an “othered” form that is separate from her body. With the structure of the story being centered around Black Women, the writer is positioned to inform the audience how her body should or may perform to drive the plot and assist in completing the story. This storytelling style objectifies Black Women’s lives and presents her as a spectacle in constant response to her circumstances. She Chronicles focuses on Black Women centered stories that explore her livelihood from a holistic perspective.” – Nikki Skies
So yea, these are my weekends. I changed my mind in the studies I am going to pursue so I’m going to get a Masters next May. So you know what that means?… THESIS WRITING!
Saturday night I read and wrote from about 2:30-11pm and Sunday I put in another four hours. The discipline in writing is not the problem. The problem is not reading either. My challenge is using the left side of my brain ALL OF THE TIME! I’m a creative person come on! 😫 But I believe in the research I’m doing for theatre and black women playwrights so I am focused.
“What was I thinking?” was the question I asked myself quite often over the past four months. This was how I felt…
I knew I was there! I knew I was sitting there and reading and walking around and driving, etc. Sometimes it was crystal clear and other times everything was a blur! But when I say I underestimated how much energy would be exerted working full-time and going back for future PhD studies…
I shot it short,
I miscued my intuition
I WAS BUSY!
A good busy. A purposeful busy. A busy that was full of intent but absolutely overwhelming at times. But I went back in searching for a language that boxed black women writers (in particular playwrights) within criticisms and criteria that hindered expansion and an honest representation. I chose Clark Atlanta University and their Africana Womens Studies Department.
I went into the program wanting to study black women in fiction literature. But decided to look into researching black women playwrights instead. Besides, theatre is my first love and this would give me a chance to honor the art form that got me started.
Last fall I also entered my second year of teaching elementary English Language Arts (ELA). So I confidently entered my fourth career change! But educating children during the day, on various learning levels, and then going to school in the evening until 7 and 7:30 p.m. could’ve taken a toll. And least we not forget the three teenagers living in my house!
Organization was crucial and kept me afloat. Sleeping when my body said “lay down” and closing my eyes when I was seeing double aided in my relationship with sanity as well. 🙂 After a decade or so being out of school, I managed to pull off some incredible grades! And on top of that, I put my money where my mouth was by setting an example of time management and effective studying skills for my teens.