Fresh Eyes on We Are Proud, 5th Installment

FE trio

Kate Duffly, Roberta Hunte and Lesli Mones
Owen Carey

We had Fresh Eyes on the first preview of We Are Proud...  Along with a nearly full house of people, Roberta, Kate and Lesli met this funny, surprising, wrenching play in its full bloom.Before turning to their comments, we want to thank each for them for their generosity with their time, insight and spirit. They have offered a view into the process that can truly enrich the experience of We Are Proud...

Here are their thoughts:

Roberta Hunte:

   Watching the play I thought of being educated in South Africa. At my school I had to learn German, while the other students learned Afrikaans. My Afrikaans was not up to a level to pass university entrance exams. Instead I learned German. I asked why German, and was told they colonized Namibia. They were around. I never learned anything about the genocide of the Herero. I learned about the concentration camps that the English created for the Afrikaans women and children  in the Boer War at the turn of the century. It was called the first concentration camp. The violence perpetuated on the Herero didn't deserve note. We learned about the Holocaust of WW2 and the threat of Stalin. We learned of the wonders of the New Deal. 
    I went to university in Johannesburg and liked to study in the African reading room. It was a sunlit beautiful room. The walls had pictures of maps of Africa and colonial documents. Colonialism was on the walls in nice frames. I learned more about the Scramble for Africa. I began to learn more about the Apartheid state and anti-Apartheid struggle. This was from the period of 1992-2001, during the ending of Apartheid. I feel disgust at the failings of my education. 
       The play was heartbreaking. Challenging. Painful. Brilliant. When I did my doctorate in Canada I saw a First Nations woman who looked like my grandmother. It was the first time I had thought of us having indigenous ancestors. When my grandmother died last year at 100 we looked at our family tree. We are from Virginia. Come to find out in our area there was a lot of Indian and black intermarriage. My grandmother's family are part of that history. They are also part of census reclassification that classified darker skinned members of the community as black and lighter skinned as Native American. It was referred to as a bureaucratic genocide. It happened at different times in the 1800s and early 1900s. Our ancestors call us to remember. 
         I'm left with a lot from the play. I'm keen to talk about it more. It will sit with me for a very long time. 
Kate Duffly:
  • I’m still reeling from watching the first preview of the show last night. It left me with a lot of feelings that I’m still working to digest. Mostly, I’m struck by what a brilliantly crafted play it is and what a great job the actors are doing in their roles.
  • Framed is it is around a presentation about the Herero people of Namibia, the play nevertheless captures so much about what it is to talk about race in America today. The playwright captures this within the context of a rehearsal environment, which is sometimes exciting, fun, funny, and inspired and at other moments frustrating, alienating, and downright tedious. And isn’t talking about race in America just like that? Sometimes inspiring and sometimes frustrating and even tedious.
  • The play captures the misunderstandings between all of the characters and their repeated attempts along with their failures to really understand each other. The playwrights’ ability to craft characters who are both loveable and flawed reminded me of bell hooks’ statement, ““For me, forgiveness and compassion are always linked: how do we hold people accountable for wrongdoing and yet at the same time remain in touch with their humanity enough to believe in their capacity to be transformed?”
  • The play ended with what can only be described as a kind of ritual. I felt myself having a powerful, visceral response: heart beating, chest heaving, I felt deeply implicated in the events onstage.