What a time to be alive. Playwrights of color, women-identifying playwrights of color, are spotlighted. Diverse stories are finally being told and theatre is finally acknowledging its bias and taking steps to correct that.
Time to pop the champagne right? WE DID IT.
Except. Yes, those diverse stories are being told but they’re, for the most part, rooted in trauma. SLAVE PLAY which is blowing up right now is rooted in trauma. I’m not saying it’s not a good play or a complicated play or even that people shouldn’t go see it. A play about interracial couples and BDSM? Yes! Everyone who is able, go see that play. I wish I could see it. But I also recognize that if I could see it, I’d probably need to have a long and thorough talk with my therapist after.
Y’all remember hip hop from the 90s/early 2000s?
Remember how fun it was? I remember dancing ALL NIGHT to TLC, Destiny’s Child, and SWV. I would sing in my hairbrush about “scrubs” tryin holla even though I was eleven and didn’t fully understand what a scrub was. Even songs about bills were fun! I didn’t have any bills but that didn’t stop from screaming “You triflin (Good for nothing type of brother)” out the window of my dad’s car.
Where is the joy? Where are the stories about that? The stories about the mixed-race queer girl from California who would listen to new music in the car with her dad. And he’d HATE it but he’d do it for me because he loved me. Do you know how many times I made my dad listen to “We Belong Together” by Mariah Carey because I was going through a bad break up? TO THIS DAY, he asks me if I’ve listened to it to lately and it’s become a running joke for the last fifteen years.
We both laugh every time.
When will we get to see those stories on stage? There has been think piece after think piece after think piece about how trauma-informed stories aren’t bringing new audiences into the theatre. As artists of color, we know we’re making work for primarily white audience but what if we weren’t? What if we decided, “Nah”? And, if we did decide that, would we still be getting produced?
I love how the music video for Bailando by Enrique Iglesias starts. Really, I love the whole music video because it’s just people dancing and living their best lives but I love that it starts out in a room with people just dancing and being silly and being themselves. It looks like how every one of my family parties started growing up. I wanna go to the theatre and leave feeling joy, feeling like my community, each of my communities, has (have) been represented in a way that makes me proud.
Why have we become so obsessed with conflict that we can’t tell the difference between traumatizing an audience and inspiring them? Why are we leaning so hard on white guilt?
I recently threw a bit of a tantrum. I’m a water sun sign with a fire rising sign. It’s gonna happen every once in while. But I was talking to a theatre company about potentially writing a play and I realized late in the conversation that they wanted me to write a trauma-informed story and I was like “I don’t wanna do that. I’m not going to do that.” It is the bravest I’ve been and the most honest when talking to a theatre company. Usually, I’m just so thankful to have someone want to work with me that I bite my tongue and just write what I’m told to.
Which, if you’re working with artists of color but not listening to them, is that really equity? Is that really diversity?
Anyway, I’m not sure that company will work with me and I have to find a way to be okay with that. I cannot continue to sacrifice my community for my career.
This weekend, I wrote a play that begins with trauma and ends with happiness. I see this play as the beginning of a new era of plays for me. I want to write about joy and resistance and how we can lift each other up. Everything is a dumpster fire right now. I’m not advocating for theatre that’s escapism; I’m advocating that we show the world and even ourselves where we have found happiness, a reason to stay alive, despite everything being on fire.
I mean come on, ya girl does party. Let’s bring that party to the theatre.