Last Monday I interviewed international playwright Dominique Morisseau about her play Detroit 67. It runs at Atlanta’s Southwest Arts Center, February 10 – March 8. We chatted a lot about her hometown of Detroit, and how she aspires to be the scribe for the people she grew up with. Below is a teaser of our conversation. Click the link below to read the full interview.
ArtsATL: The “n-word” is used a lot in this play. Why did you choose to use it?
Morisseau: I usually never use this word in plays. I always try to find another word for how black people describe each other. I got to a point in my writing where nothing else worked. I was censoring myself as a writer by not letting my characters speak for themselves. I researched and started talking to my parents, and I asked them to just be with me in a basement in 1967 with [their] friends. What would [they] say? My mother’s hilarious answer was, “Well, the bad girls would say ‘nigger.’” They didn’t want to admit to me that they used the “n-word.”
I was thinking about my responsibility as an artist, and I know that to my elders, it may hit them wrong because they have worked so hard to bury that word. But on the flip side, I have to not try to correct my people, but rather let them see themselves reflected back to themselves, and then they can make the choice to do something different.