Post-show discussion – Chain

We performed a staged reading of Pearl Cleage’s short play Chain this past weekend, and rising star Charlette Speigner ripped through a powerful performance as a 16-year old crack addict going through seven days of withdrawal after her parents chain her to a radiator.

One of the reasons I love Pearl Cleage’s writing is that she doesn’t pull punches – the horror of this situation is clear from the first moments of confused violence in the darkness (we learn later that it’s the sound of Rosa being restrained by her parents; we learn later still that it’s a necessary act of desperation and love). Rosa, whose family moved to Harlem from Tuskegee, Alabama when she was young enough to be reshaped by her new world, responds to her situation in the only way she can – with hatred and profanity; as Pearl describes her, “like a caged animal.”

As the days go by and the chain forces her to abandon her addiction, Rosa wrestles with her demons and examines her relationships with friends, family, and herself.

In the discussion after the reading, we talked about Pearl’s inspiration for this story – back at our Symposium in March, she talked about reading a story in the news about a family who resorted to this extreme measure, and being fascinated by the contradictions inherent in it. I think this is why it grabs audiences too – the idea of parents chaining their young daughter to a radiator is repulsive, but by the end of the play we love them (although they never appear on stage) and thank them for doing what they’ve done.

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