2023 seems to aim into unexpected serendipities and opportunities; a wonderful way to start the year!
The complete play of By Me You'll Never Know had two workshops last year; having completed the journey of the curated version that had opportunity of 'zoomscape' work across 2021.
Out of the workshop this past October, 2022, the play gained such advocacy as to facilitate its script moving into the hands of independent process in New York; one of which, was created by Mercedes White, Chair of Theater at the Harlem School of the Arts. It was her ambition to offer platform for community, audiences & students, to experience scenes & elements of works by black playwrights, and present this within frame of Black History Month programing.
Mercedes vision was nurtured to fruition, and on the 18th February, HSA will be presenting scenes and excerpts from plays of an incredible group of black playwrights, of which I am excited to be part of.
The two scenes from By Me You'll Never Know follow one another, in the closing course of ACT TWO; the first is a scene for KEN & (his theatre godmother) JERRI, which occurs within a 'fugue of voices and past conversations' that KEN is reliving; JERRI's thread is in connecting KEN to 'ownership of himself', and roots to his memories.
The next scene is meant to occur 'after a time', and in this one KEN is stepping into a community room in Harlem, in the historic Riverton apartment complex - which, we discover, is a place where his mother worked with the community's young children, and participated in 'art song' performances; this is a place, for KEN, at the core of his lost memories.. and the woman who still works there, MISS VIVIAN, he discovers, is key to a wealth of context and information of 'who KEN is', who his mother was, and how the circumstances of his loss were foreseen by those who knew his beginnings..
These two scenes offer tapestry of 'generational/giving knowledge', and a way of understanding journey that goes beyond just marking the dots, as points in our life; JERRI's detail is the ask of KEN to see beyond what is obvious, into currents and consequences, the 'intangibles', always at play in how we interpret what is not obvious... and create a sensitivity and determination 'to wonder'.
Whereas MISS VIVIAN is the embodiment of context, rooted and living example, to all who enter 'her space', of the layers to Riverton's community of giving, as example of 'getting on', and 'moving forward'.
..these two characters are the complimenting aspects of 'roots' - those you cannot see, and those that ground you nonetheless.
I am deeply grateful that this work is having the opportunity it is receiving, through HSA - especially in the deepest serendipity and fact that my father, who was organist at St. James Presbyterian Church in the 1960's, worked with the legendary soprano Dorthy Maynor, who established roots of HSA in the basement of the church..
..in so many ways, the work comes home..