Fresh Eyes on We Are Proud to Present...
Rehearsals just began for our upcoming production of We Are Proud to Present a Presentation About the Herero of Namibia, Formerly Known As South West Africa, From the German Südwestafrika, Between the Years 1884-1915. (And now you know why we always shorten the title!) This play focuses on profound issues of racism and genocide in a wildly theatrical and surprisingly funny way. We’re very pleased to have a new group of folks from the community sharing their observations about the play and the process.
Our first report comes from Kate Duffly, who is a scholar-director and community-engaged theatre artist. Kate was able to join us for the first day of rehearsal, which included presentations by the designers and a read through of the play by the cast.
Here are Kate’s Observations:
- Several great remarks kicked off the first rehearsal of We Are Proud. Director Kevin Jones remarked on the significance of producing this challenging play about race and racism and the question of who gets to tell whose story – especially in Portland, OR. Lighting designer Peter West commented on the way this play doesn’t offer solutions but, rather, is “groping towards hope.” Dramaturg Luan Schooler remarked that one of the things that is so striking about this play is that it is essentially live theatre. Even at this first read through I felt the essential importance of the liveness of this play – the need for the audience to be present as both witness and implicated party.
- Kevin’s comments about the significance of producing this play in Portland really resonated with me. What does it mean to produce this play in Portland? How will it be received by audiences? Is there a way to encourage a more diverse audience to attend this play. (I’m thinking in terms of race, age, and class in particular.)
- Experiencing the first read through, I’m struck by how funny the play is – the actors struggling through a devising process, hampered by their interpersonal issues and idiosyncrasies is such a recognizable experience to me.
- But some of the lines that are on the one hand comical, resonate so much with our struggle with who we are, how we make sense of race/identity in light of our own experiences, how we can feel scared of making mistakes and paralyzed by that not-knowing. One character says, “I don’t know what my character is doing! I don’t know how to do this right. Everything I say is somehow wrong.” This comment seems to reflect one of the central struggles of the play.
- As Peter West remarked, the play doesn’t leave us with answers. In fact, I was deeply shaken by the end of the reading. I’m excited for the actors and director to dive into this production, and for Portland to experience. Kevin Jones remarked that the actors will be changed through their work on this process, and I have no doubt that will be the case.
Check back to see what our other Fresh Eyes have to say!