Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Raymond called last night

Raymond took time out from his busy rehearsal schedule to touch base last night. We talked about theater productions going on in Phoenix which happened to be mostly plays by black playwrights. Artistic director David Ira Goldstein of the Arizona State Theater Company is featuring Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry, which is possibly the most famous play ever written by a black playwright, a woman yet! He could not have known that we would have a black president when he chose to do this play. Due to a bus that came up missing I did not get to the Black Theater to see their hip hop musical based on a Shakespeare play. Another theater company iCollaborative is also featuring a play by a black playwright in the Herberger this week.
I wish all these people were as excited as I am about Raymond, who has been part of the theater scene here for over 20 years, taking an original play to Los Angeles to perform in a theater in West Hollywood. We talked a long time about the play which he said probably features his father's disappearance more than anything, but he reminded me of how many times his father would disappear while living with him when something major was going to happen. He disappeared twice just before the opening of a new play by Raymond, adding to his stress, as he had to try to find him. I remember once he was missing for around 10 days here in Phoenix before he finally called. Raymond was taking a photo of him around to local bars where he disappeared to see if anyone had seen this man? There was always tension and worry that he would stay lost. Well, finally he did, just as Raymond was going through hip replacement surgery! Disappearing at critical times might have something to do with him not being able to take the worry and the stress that Raymond was feeling.
And then we talked about how many people become disappearing artists. In fact, disappearing into the shadows figures in my blog title which is why I called it Daughters of the Shadow Men. My dad's disappearing act was highly successful for the most part, but he did not plan on me being so observant that I detected the life he was living in the shadows. I felt constrained to keep his secrets for many years for fear of the wrath from him and disbelief from others I might encounter if I attempted to tell.
So Raymond and I concluded that maybe we are a society of disappearing artists. I do think that if anyone is different there is tremendous pressure on them to keep secret what might disturb those who demand conformity.
I think a playwright must always surface their inner life for a play to have significance and meaning. A risk has to be taken to lay all the facts out there, to bare one's soul so to speak. Raymond who has always wanted to be a singer is doing seven of his original songs in the play at appropriate moments to reveal character. It is sometimes a terrible risk to write and sing songs if you have not been deemed as talented in this area as in others. What a risk! To expose whatever talent you have to be judged! But I am all for tearing down all the barriers put up to keep people from expressing themselves musically 'because they are not good enough.' Dean, Raymond's dad, never encouraged me to sing a speck. I was there to applaud, but he did put up with his son who was more talented than I am, but not as talented as he was, musically. This guy could harmonize with anyone. But I thought his idea of constricting people hurt him worse than it did anybody. He had been raised to judge the singing of others quite severely, and this critical attitude ate away at his own confidence, so that he did not want to take the risk of being judged. He stopped singing for the most part rather than be judged as he judged others. So it will be very interesting to see how the audience judges Raymond efforts to write monologues, act, write songs, and sing! A formidable challenge. Can he pull it off? As my sister Ann said, for this kind of venture you have to have nerves of steel. And you have to understand risk that stops just short of excess, which means you must revise to the bone.


Anonymous said...

Arizona Theatre Company's production of A RAISIN IN THE SUN runs at the Herberger Theatre Center February 5-22. For tickets or more information contact the ATC Box Office at (602) 256-6995.

Directed by Lou Bellamy, A RAISIN IN THE SUN is a gripping and explosive tale of one family living and learning together on the South Side of Chicago in the 1950s, A Raisin in the Sun was the first authentic voice of an African American playwright to hit the Broadway stage. In this award-winning drama, the Younger family searches for a way to grab their piece of the dream, even in the face of prejudice and discrimination. Since the play’s premiere exactly 50 years ago, Lorraine Hansberry’s towering masterpiece has moved audiences and broken down barriers wherever it has played. “The play that changed American theatre forever…a seething interplay of past and present, of wisdom and passion.”
– The New York Times

sober white women said...

I commented in another blog about disappearing. To my family I have all but disappeared. When I do speak to my long lost family they have some good stories that they heard through the grape vine. Oh if only my life was like the stories!
I am so glad that you and raymond got a chance to chat.

Connie said...

To have anothers praise and appoval is human nature..but one can't rely on anothers opinion as sole judge to ones is indeed in the eye of the beholder.As long as we give it our all..that is what least that's this one old ladys opinion...

Ann said...

Gerry, there is a group of Grandmas in Utah that sing just for fun. They were on TV the other night, a special, and believe me most sounded like face, you might be better. They had a huge crowd encouraging the complete song clapping and shouting for more. I loved it. Those grandmas were having such a good time...exactly what music is for.


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