Post-show discussion – Sunday, July 29

This past Sunday we had our second post-show discussion for 2 by Pearl (the first, a small discussion following a League of Chicago Theatres Theater Thursday performance, included a brief backstage tour), and there were some really fascinating questions and answers and thoughts from audience and artists alike.

Set designer Chris Corwin joined us and talked about his thoughts on the sets for the two plays, which are dramatically different from one another in their colors, textures and lines to give us two very different worlds for the two one acts.

We talked, as I expect we will each Sunday, about the reasons for and experience of alternating the two roles in Late Bus to Mecca – Frances and Alana both talked about the difficulty and the joy in playing a silent character, and of learning by watching one another play each part.

Tanya and Noelle were asked about their experience going through the powerful emotional journey that the two characters travel in Hospice each night, and they talked about the physical and emotional toll that the play takes on them as actors, but also of the cathartic joy of taking that journey.

We talked about Pearl Cleage’s tendency to write stories with African-American characters, and revisited her thoughts on the voices she hears around her and the fact that we’re all telling the same stories. Someone told a story of a reviewer who asked Pearl Cleage why all of her characters in a novel are black and was surprised when she pointed out that she never actually says what the color of their skin is in the book.

Finally, we also talked about Pearl Cleage’s use of the N-word in Late Bus to Mecca, especially in the context of the NAACP’s recent ceremonial burial of the word itself. Ava Johnson uses the word comfortably and frequently as she tells the story of her escape from prostitution, and members of the audience asked Frances and Alana their thoughts on using the word as actors. From there the conversation ranged widely as people shared their personal thoughts and experiences, and we came back around to Ava’s use of the word – usually spiteful, sometimes affectionate, always specific and self-aware and clearly part of her vocabulary.

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