Pearl Cleage revisits “Blues for an Alabama Sky”

I had the opportunity to meet playwright/novelist Pearl Cleage for the first time while I was a contractor for the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta. At the time, I was helping the theatre re-imagine its community engagement programs, and Pearl was hosting a series called “Page to Stage with Pearl Cleage.” “Page to Stage” was a pre-show talk Pearl conducted with the audience about an hour before each show. I remember watching her and thinking, wow this woman really loves what she does. I could tell that words were her friends and that Atlanta was her didactic playground. I recently had the opportunity to formally interview Pearl about the 20th anniversary production of Blues for an Alabama Sky, which opens at the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta this week. She wanted to make sure that the production still “stood up after 20 years,” and based on the feedback I’ve been hearing from previews, it does.

Read it here: http://www.americantheatre.org/2015/04/16/blues-for-an-alabama-sky-celebrates-its-20th-birthday-at-the-alliance-theatre/

A thought on white privilege

I have read a lot in the news and on social media about privilege, why black lives matter, and police brutality lately. Yet there are still those people who deny that white privilege is a thing. I’ll give you an example of white privilege in its most innocent form. There’s a high school senior shadowing our graphic designer today, because she wants to study graphic design in college. Her mother is friends with the publisher’s wife. No doubt, whatever she learns here today will be invaluable, and when the time comes, she may even be able to do an internship here.

I think back to me at 17. I wanted to be a magazine editor, but I didn’t know anyone who worked at a magazine, other than Vanessa Williams on “Ugly Betty.” I did not meet a black woman who wrote in magazines about the arts until I was 21. Until then, I literally just had blind faith. But here this girl is at 17. This is great for her. She gets to shadow someone who looks like her doing what she wants to do.

For most people, seeing someone who looks like them do the thing they want to do is critical to not killing their dreams. But, when you’re black, it takes time to overcome decades of systematic oppression to even get into a position to know people who do the things you want to do. White privilege is not having to wait until we have overcome. White privilege is knowing someone in that position to even give you that opportunity.

Real Women Have Curves

Seven years ago I played the role of Rosali in the play Real Women Have Curves at The University of Georgia, which changed my view of theatre forever. The play was written by Chicana playwright Josefina Lopez in 1995. Dealing with issues of immigration, domestic violence, body image, and feminism, the play resonates with audiences today.

RWHC

Viviana Chavez, Jeniffer Tillman, and Kelundra Smith in UGA’s production of Real Women Have Curves, 2008.

Recently, I had the opportunity to interview the director and cast members from Teatro del Sol’s upcoming production, which opens this weekend. It reminded me of the lifelong friends I made during my college production, and the ways in which the play resonates with and deeply touches the actresses who play five curvy Latinas in a sweatshop in East LA.I was recently maid of honor in our “Estela’s” wedding, and regularly have lunch dates with our “Ana.”

Check out my preview of the show, which is a part of Aurora Theatre’s Spanish language theatre initiative in Lawrenceville, Georgia: http://www.artsatl.com/2015/04/preview-teatro-del-sols-real-women-curves-celebrates-latino-heritage-struggles/