Originally I was going to write about rewriting, when asked to contribute a blog post on the eve of opening this production of LUCK OF THE IRISH to the public, but as I sat down to write about that, I couldn't think of much more to say about it than "rewrites: I'm all for them." That is possibly because as I type the show is in previews, and really, to me, what this time is about for a playwright is determining what the production needs with your collaborators and doing your rewriting accordingly. Not a very exciting premise for a blog post, so, moving on.
I was also maybe possibly going to write about tech, the point in the rehearsal period where lights and sound and set, all the technical aspects of the show, become realized. But to be honest, I spent most of the early days in tech back home in Boston, as my family caught the flu-the real one, the one we've been looking at on the news and no we did not get flu shots and yes we should have but that was on the to do list for the AEA (Actor's Equity Association) day off but my kids fell ill three days before on the Friday and it was on that AEA day off that they dragged me and my husband into the flu with them.
So then I thought I'd write about writing with kids underfoot. But that is my go to when asked to write about writing, because for now, while my children are small, that is really what dominates my relationship to my work: when do I write? when do I research? how can I get through a conference call when pick up is in thirty minutes and a conference call is usually never just thirty minutes for theater people (my husband could write his own post about this...he is perturbed by how long winded he feels theater people can be). Furthermore, after seeing them so sick and having to be away from them while they aren't feeling well, I really can't complain too much about the rigors of working and writing and being a mother. At this moment I am really just grateful some of our fevers are down to 99 and we aren't buying our weight in children's Motrin anymore.
Betwixt the flu and rewriting LUCK, I've been spending my fare share of time on Facebook. I shouldn't. It drains the day of time and my soul of vitality. I see pictures of other people's happy kids in pajamas and go into an internal debate about my own kids' bedtime and the absence of parenting skills my husband and I display between 7 and 9 PM. I read posts about other people's productions and feel pangs of jealousy in regards to the nanny they were able to afford to be able to get through rehearsal. But I do go on Facebook, I do. Since I can't see the two to three movies a week I used to see before having children, or all the television I used to watch before I craved a quiet house-and I do crave nine o'clock, much as I love the lovelies-Facebook is where I catch up on what "real world" people are doing.
From Facebook I've learned about that writer Lena Dunham. I don't know much about her except she went to Oberlin and her show didn't have black people until its season two premier a few weeks ago and then they put black folks everywhere including a love interest that was a black Republican which I suppose was supposed to allow his politics to clash with those of Dunham's liberally privileged character but really just seems a convenient way to not really still have to have a black character in your show because you might be able to broach the topic of race but you created a character who is a mouthpiece, who is figurative. But I don't know for sure, of course. The only thing I do know is I will probably not be Netflixing GIRLS any time soon.
Facebook is also where I learned more about DJANGO UNCHAINED. I can't say I will watch any more Tarantino movies, either, so I will most likely miss DJANGO, too. I can't stomach the violence. It's not that I think it's gratuitous, in fact, one thing I admire in Tarantino is he makes violence part of the narrative and integral to the stories he tells. But I can't watch it on a good day, and then add in Sandyhook and Mali, I just can't do it right now, even when I don't consider race. Which is hard not to do. Because the conversations surrounding Dunham's assertion she has no friends of color in New York after going to Oberlin (my family's sent kids to Oberlin. Not only do black people go there, there is a legacy of black students going there for many, many decades) and then her addition of a black Republican character in an election year where the GOP candidate got less than 1% of the black vote, and Tarantino's depiction of slavery as an action film in a time when many American students could not tell you slavery's dates or what slavery actually entailed or the culture it bred (I know this because as former Instructor of English at several Boston colleges, I have had startling conversations about history, dates, and the confusion that Lincoln and Martin Luther King were not, in fact, contemporaries), is just irresponsible. I can't stomach that, either.
In both GIRLS and DJANGO the conversation focuses on white artists presenting black characters. It focuses on the fact they exist, not the ramifications of that existence. I do not believe only black artists can tell black stories. I do not, I do not. But I am angry that there are artists of color whose projects can not get the support they need. What these two artistic triumphs- Dunham's and Tarantino's, and they are triumphs culturally somehow or else they would not be so popular-demonstrate to me is the disheartening idea that the stuff of actual black stories is not enough, that they must be altered to be able to be made at all. Some slaves wielded violence, but the fact of slavery is that most could not. Some black people are Republicans. But most, especially in 2013, are not.
So, on the eve of opening LUCK OF THE IRISH to the public I am thinking about all these things because the story of LUCK is the story of my grandparents. My grandparents were actual people of color. And their stories are more than enough to be valued, to be appreciated, to be sung.
Kirsten Greenidge is the author of LUCK OF THE IRISH.