Tag Archives: performance studies

Hey Professors, come out of your comfort zones

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.

The Thing about proof

I will not be the first to say it or prove it because of the legacy I claim. The legacy of black women’s intellect. The legacy to exist as a whole person as I breath this wind no matter how sharp or cold the inhales. A legacy of black women who have been pioneering theory and knowledge creation inside a world of balance and beauty.

In this PhD journey I am becoming more comfortable with the process of framing any claims I am wanting to make with theories. Luckily for me, I knew the sound and feel and of my art being embodied with a language that respected the ground my ancestors toiled and turned. Also lucky for me I studied Africana Women’s Studies at a HBCU and was introduced to a platform of scholarship that affirm the holistic agency of black women. So now that I am back in theatre, I am waltzing with a world that has no problem thickening the boundary of marginalizing me as an artist and budding scholar.

Theatre, you do not exist without drums. Or the quilted curtains that open and close a world designed from black women’s comfort and smiles.

I am in a program with no black people appointed on the faculty. No Professors to offer seminars on their research interests that would most likely be host to discourse on the borders of gender, race or class from a centered perspective. With no one to rally for the social and political interests of black students, the curriculum adheres to hegemony and the unwavering white imagination on blackness. So I have joined the “how do I sift through the compost of oppressive constructs and still have energy to find the same paradigm speaking my language?”

Theatre, you are not monolith. Don’t believe history or the curriculum. Turn off the spotlight until they all are voiced.