Tuesday, August 24, 2010

First Thoughts: Rhythm of Revenge

Thoughts about the play from director Dek Ingraham...

OK, I'll admit it...I was a more than a little bit afraid of this play when we chose it.  What business does a little gay white boy from Ohio have directing a play about 8 women and a lynching of a black man that happened in Florida in the 1930s?  It is textually dense, emotionally difficult and more than a little culturally uncomfortable.  All the more reason that it needs to be seen.  

I've had to wrestle my own demons just in the preparatory work for this show.  I've had to examine racism and white privilege in ways that I have had the luxury of being oblivious to.  I've come to realize that even this act of examination is a luxury afforded to me by the color of my skin.  If I choose to stop looking so intensively at the issue, I can without any negative consequence.  It isn't something that I have to deal with on a daily basis.  I've always been able to walk into a barber shop and know that someone there will know how to cut my hair.  I've never had to wonder whether I've gotten a job or lost a job because of my race or ever had to deal with coworkers who wonder about the same.  I'm not asked to speak for my race in panel discussions or interviews.  My good or bad behavior is not used by society to reflect upon my entire race.  We live in a society where millions of people are burdened with these things everyday and the privileged, for the most part aren't even aware.  The lynchings may not be as common as they once were, people of all colors can ride next to each other on a bus or use the same water fountain, but we are not even close to creating equality.  The new enemy of equality doesn't wear a hood and burn crosses, it goes about its day, completely unaware of its unspoken privilege.

Ultimately, the discussions with the cast in rehearsal may be vastly more important than the final artistic product.  I have been deeply affected personally and I would venture to say that many in the cast will say the same.  I hope that those who see performances of this show are spurred into conversation.  We aren't going to solve anything with this play--even I'm not that optimistically naive.  However, we can plant a seed.  Knowing that the problem exists and naming it is the first step towards correcting it.  I don't have the answers.  I am not speaking from a position of authority or great knowledge.  I am just stumbling through and trying to make sense of it all.  I suspect that I'm not alone.

Rhythm of Revenge by Kathleen Conner Combass
part of the 20th Annual
Pittsburgh New Works Festival
September 23 - September 26. Thursday and Friday at 8pm; Saturday at 5 and 8pm; Sunday at 2pm
Single tickets are $10 and may be purchased online from
ProArtsTickets or by calling 412.394.3353.

For a full festival schedule, visit the Pittsburgh New Works Festival website

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