Friday, September 18, 2009

The River Crosses Rivers: Series A

The River Crosses Rivers: Series A is another strong evening of one acts by women of color at the Ensemble Studio Theatre (my review of Series B is below). The standout of the evening--of the whole festival--is Lynn Nottage's heartbreaking Banana Beer Bath, a monologue, brilliantly performed by Elain Graham, about hiding from the Ugandan rebels who are attacking her parents. It was breath-taking in the literal sense of the word.

During both evenings, I was struck by the variety of topics depicted: angels, history, punk rock, the pressure to get married, ungrateful children, parenting, loss, romance, dishonesty and truth, how a second can change an entire life, and more. And the characters were varied too: men and women, young and old, straight and gay, black, white, and subcontinental Asian.

I started going to theatre in the 1970s. When people of color, lesbians, gay men, and/or women had the rare opportunity to be heard, they/we generally grabbed the opportunity to talk about being people of color, lesbians, gay men, and/or women. There was so much education to do; in many cases, merely getting across the simple message, "I am a human being," was the primary--and difficult!--goal. And when they/we wrote about anything else, who would put that work on?

I look forward (with more hope than optimism, to be truthful) to a world where everyone's voices are heard. Many thanks to Going to the River 2009 and the Ensemble Studio Theatre for getting us a little closer to that world.

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