I left America to become a writer, because I did not want to write what America felt my color gave me credentials to speak of: blackness. I wanted more opportunity than that ledge.
Reading the BBC Gomp/arts blog [Is Britain best for new playwrights?], Ms Hall says she went to London because “America was too conservative. Theatre there relied on formula and revivals and established writers.” An observation I agree with, as I said in my previous entry.
However, I find myself wondering; subtext, to the language of the piece, resonates with the photo of Ms Hall, who is black. In this day and age I find it surprising that the word “race” never actually made it into the article, but there is something else America does, when it mainstreams; it follows lines of ethnicity.
When I was at the truth, in my life, that I wanted to be a playwright, it was the America of the 80’s, and I felt that if I attempted this ambition here the dream would be cropped. As a black writer, the system had you trained to aim at a black audience –the “natural” [read: easiest] opportunity. I, though, wanted all manner of dimensions in my writing.
To learn how to accomplish that with the freedom of curiosity and the guidance of open mindedness, as well as already having absorbed the guiding works of Baldwin, Hansberry and Hurston, I determined that England, land of Marlowe, Shakespeare, Pinter, Hare and many others –a culture that treated the class of “writer” with respect and attention- would teach me more about what could be done in the ‘black box’ of the stage, than America, where delving into the whole maelstrom of conditions and castes of human possibilities, only seemed acceptable if you weren’t black.
Nurtured by the experience in theatre abroad, I am a playwright, who is black, who believes in turning the envelope inside out.
My ethic for the ‘black box’ is that it is a place where myriad forms of storytelling must be used to engage the youth and audiences of this millennium; my drive is in creating a form of narrative that utilizes visual image, non-verbal communication, and live stage action, to weave a multi-layered story and theatre experience.
Constructs of social class, family dynamics, politics, race, religion, humor, and the daily negotiating with the lies we tell ourselves, to be able to get out of bed in the morning, are all subjects I explore.
It was never in my mind to ignore these subjects; I wanted to find the palette which allowed characters of many aspects, and presented the chance at getting through the static noise of conformity, or social and racial knee jerk rhetoric, to connect with a diverse audience willing to journey.