Fresh Eyes on We Are Proud, 3rd Installment

FE trio

Kate Duffly, Roberta Hunte and Lesli Mones

Kate Duffly joined us again on Tuesday, February 16th. Here are her observations:

-       I had the chance to sit in on rehearsal again today. When I arrived they were at the end of working on some fight choreography. They were essentially talking through a portion of the last scene wherein the character played by Vin Shambry has a noose tied around his neck while he is standing on a block. I was stunned, watching as they just walked and talked through this scene at how violent and loaded the image is, even in the relative “safety” of the rehearsal context. I wondered about how the cast and production team are able to negotiate moments like this in the play. I wondered about how people might feel and respond differently to this image, depending on their racial identity. What must have to be set up to support the actor who wears this noose? How can he, a black man, be asked to shoulder the burden of that moment, the history that it carries, and how can the rest of his cast support him as he does that? What is the role or responsibility of Artists Rep to prepare and support this work in a different way than other plays? My students talk a lot about triggering and their desire for trigger warnings. I wondered about that in this context. What does the noose trigger for the actors in the play? For the audience? The playwright? The director? Will that image read to all audiences in the same way?

-       After a break, the cast reconvened to do a stumble through from the top of the show. It was so interesting to shift from the final moments of the play to the first moments of the play. The play is so funny. I was laughing so hard I cried at several moments during the stumble through. The playwright draws us into the play, into the relationships among these characters at the start of the play through comedy. Even the representation of violence early in the play is comedic (people are “killed” by being bonked on the head with inflatable hammers). It is such a contrast from the final, vivid image of the noose. It drove home for me all that the playwright sets up for the audience to get us to that final image, to give context for that final, violent image.

-       The theme for me watching this rehearsal was the relationship between the representation of a thing and the experience of the thing itself. The actors are playing characters who are actors taking on roles with names like Black Man and White Man. As Black Woman points out, “Black Woman is the just the name of the character I am playing… But I am also a Black woman in real life.” This confusion/overlay of the representational and the “real” is key. The actors shift between rehearsal mode and performance mode. Similarly, there is overlap with the real life of the real actors performing this challenging play. Just as the characters of this play must negotiate their relationships with each and the material of the play they are trying to put on, so too must the actors of We Are Proud negotiate their relationship with each other and the material of the play from their own race and gendered subject positions.

 

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