A Visit From Sweet Water Taste’s Playwright, Gloria Bond Clunie
Horizon Theatre Company’s production of Sweet Water Taste opened on July 12th to audience acclaim and critical kudos. We were lucky enough to have the show’s playwright, Gloria Bond Clunie, with us for the opening weekend. Playwright Gloria Bond Clunie was inspired to write Sweet Water Taste after reading an article in Time Magazine about Jefferson & Hemings. While the play is set in modern day, it is not hard to see the connection. Originally from North Carolina, Clunie set Sweet Water Taste there.
W. E. B. Dubois declared
that the most difficult question of the 20th century is the color
line! Even as we slip into the twenty-first century, this question still begs
to be addressed. Though integration in some arenas is evident, the vestiges of
racism still lurk under the trappings of a legally desegregated society.
As cities explode over
which monuments should stand or fall, we wonder when the next “Charlottesville”
will erupt. We ask ourselves, “Are ‘both sides’ really to blame?” In this
“Post- Obama Era,” why are some outraged when NFL players drop a knee with
Kaepernick? What are the unspoken thoughts when two African-American sisters
compete at Wimbledon? Are there times when integration is inappropriate? Should
all doors swing wide? Should some remain closed? In 2019, why do descendants of
Thomas Jefferson still refuse burial to descendants of Sally Hemings’ in the
‘family graveyard’ at Monticello?
Are we truly brothers and
sisters under the skin?
As we become a more
homogenous, yet diverse society, these are subtle issues we must continue to
reexamine as new generations view icons like Dubois and Dr. Martin Luther King,
Jr. as historical figures instead of living leaders. When addressing such
serious issues, perhaps if we sometimes open our mouths to laugh, we might open
our hearts to a wider understanding of humanity and hopefully discover unique
solutions to the challenges we face in our future.
Peace! Joy! Power!
Gloria Bond Clunie is an award-winning playwright, director and educator. Clunie is a founding member of the Playwriting Ensemble at Chicago’s Regional Tony Award winning Victory Gardens Theater where her plays North Star, Living Green and Shoes premiered. She is also the founding Artistic Director of Evanston’s Fleetwood-Jourdain Theatre. Other plays include SMOKE, Malindy, Sing!, Buck Naked, DRIP, Merry Kwanzaa, Mercy Rising and QUARK. Her plays have been workshopped and produced in a variety of theaters including Victory Gardens Theatre, Goodman Theatre, Fleetwood-Jourdain Theatre, ETA, Alliance Theatre, Triad Stage, Her Story Theatre, MPAACT, Southern Appalachian Repertory Theatre, Penobscot Theatre and Orlando Shakespeare Theater. She and her husband Basil live in Evanston, Illinois and are the proud parents of daughter Aurelia.
Horizon Theatre Company is continuing its 35th
Anniversary Season with a production that packs more family drama than your
laugh-box will be able to stand! SWEET WATER TASTE, a new comedy from Gloria
Bond Clunie, will hit the Little Five Points stage from July 12 – August 18, 2019.
“We are thrilled to continue our summer tradition of strong plays
by African American playwrights,” says Co-Founder and Artistic Director Lisa
Adler. “This award winning comedy drama brings together two families – one white,
one black – with some of Atlanta’s best actors and Horizon favorites. If you’ve
loved previous productions from director Thomas W. Jones II (Baklckberry Daze, Da’ Kink In My Hair, How Black Mothers Say I Love You), you won’t
want to miss this story of two different branches on one family tree.”
All hell (and a little bit of heaven) breaks loose when Elijah
Beckford, a prominent southern black undertaker, approaches his wealthy white
cousins, Charlie and Elizabeth Beckford, and demands to be buried in “the
family cemetery.” SWEET WATER TASTE
is an award-winning comedy making its South-Eastern premiere at Horizon Theatre
Company this summer.
SWEET WATER TASTE features an ensemble of seven of Atlanta’s favorite actors lead by LaParee Young (Horizon’s How To Use A Knife) and Chris Kayser (Alliance Theatre’s Ever After). Opposite them will be Jen Harper (Horizon’s Uprising) and Lala Cochran (Horizon’s Waffle Palace Christmas) as their wives respectively. Rounding out the cast is Enoch King (True Color’s Skeleton Crew), Justin Walker (Theatre Buford’s A Streetcar Named Desire), and Brittani Minnieweather (Horizon’s Disney’s Freaky Friday). Artistic Associate Thomas W. Jones II leads a Suzi Award Winning creative team that includes scenic design from Moriah and Isabel Curley-Clay, lighting design from Mary Parker, and costume design from Dr. L. Nyrobi Moss.
ABOUT THE INSPIRATION FOR SWEET WATER TASTE:
E. B. Dubois declared that the most difficult question of the twentieth century
is the color line! Even as we slip into the twenty-first century, this question
still begs to be addressed. Though integration in some arenas is evident, the
vestiges of racism still lurk under the trappings of a legally desegregated
society,” says playwright Gloria Bond Clunie. “In this ‘Post- Obama Era,’ why
are some outraged when NFL players drop a knee with Kaepernick? Are there times
when integration is inappropriate? Should all doors swing wide? Should some
remain closed? What are the unspoken thoughts when two African-American sisters
compete for Wimbledon? Are we truly brothers and sisters under the skin?”
we become a more homogenous, yet diverse society, these are subtle issues we
must continue to reexamine as new generations view icons like Dubois and Dr.
Martin Luther King, Jr. as historical figures instead of living leaders. When
addressing such serious issues, perhaps if we open our mouths to laugh, we
might open our hearts to a wider understanding of humanity and hopefully
discover unique solutions to the challenges we face in our future.”
Horizon Theatre Company is continuing its 35th Anniversary Season with a production from the writer of TV’s biggest hit, This Is Us – Bekah Brunstetter! THE CAKE, a touching new comedy, will hit the Little Five Points stage from May 17 – June 23, 2019. THE CAKE is hailed by STAGESCENELA as “A DEEPLY PERSONAL, DELIGHTFULLY DOWN-HOME PORTRAIT OF THE GAY-WEDDING-CAKE-WARS.”
“This play is so wonderfully funny and full of heart that I immediately fell in love with each of the characters the first time I read it,” says director Lauren Morris. “The real magic of Bekah’s writing is that as you are drawn in, you can’t help but also begin to look at yourself. I think it is really rare right now to encounter a divisive issue and not know immediately which side you’re on. Politically, we’re often so isolated from people who think differently than we do, that we forget that ‘they’ really are a lot like ‘us’ — doing the best they can to do what they truly believe is the right thing. The Cake is full of love, in all of its complexities, contradictions, comforts, and hopes, for not only for us, but also for them. And to me, that’s maybe just the medicine we all need right now.”
All is going well for Della. Her North Carolina bakery is legendary and she’s just been cast on her favorite television baking competition. And when the girl she helped raise comes home and asks her to make a cake for her upcoming wedding, she’s overjoyed – until she discovers that the fiancé is actually a fiancée. Della’s life is suddenly turned upside down. She can’t really make a cake for a gay wedding, can she? Struggling to reconcile her deeply-held belief in “traditional marriage” and the love she has for the woman she helped raise, Della finds herself in strange new territory. Inspired by a story still in the headlines, this marvelously funny new play by Bekah Brunstetter (TV’s This Is Us) is proof that love is the key ingredient in creating common ground.
Bringing this story to life is four of the best Atlanta actors out there. As Della, the baker forced to re-examine, is the fabulous Marcie Millard (Horizon’s Third Country, City Spring’s 42nd Street). Opposite Millard as Jim, Della’s husband, is Horizon favorite Allan Edwards who has been in atr least one show each season over the past five years (Horizon’s Waffle Palace Christmas, Citizens Market, City of Conversation). As Jen, a woman returning home to plan her dream wedding, is Rhyn McLemore Saver (Alliance’s Ever After, Aurora’s Bridges of Madison County). Finally, as Macy, the woman set to marry Jen, is Parris Sarter (7 Stage’s Angry Fags, Actor’s Express’ Angels In America).
Lauren Morris leads a Suzi Award Winning creative team that includes scenic design from Moriah and Isabel Curley-Clay, lighting design from Mary Parker, costume design from Cole Spivia, and sound design from Amy L Levin.
ABOUT THE PLAYWRIGHT & HOW THE CAKE WAS BAKED: Playwright Bekah Brunstetter hails from Winston-Salem, North Carolina and currently lives in Los Angeles. She is a producer on NBC’s This is Us and is currently working on a musical adaptation of The Notebook with Ingrid Michaelson. Brunstetter grew up Southern Baptist in a conservative, religious family. In fact, her father, a former state senator, voted for a 2012 amendment that prohibited same-sex marriage in North Carolina, although it was declared unconstitutional in federal court in 2014. So, she had been grappling deeply with the challenge of how to talk to people you love about your very different beliefs.
The idea for the play was sparked by the Masterpiece Cakeshop case that went before the Supreme Court. That’s the story of a Colorado same-sex-couple who became snarled in a legal battle with a baker who refused to make them a wedding cake because they were gay. She used that incident as a jumping off point for a story that was personal to her, but explored the same issues of people with diametrically opposing values. “People are making assumptions and judgments and just getting angry and storming out. It’s rare that people are forced to be together and listen to each other,” says Brunstetter. She wrote a play that would offer hope and model of how we might begin to talk to each other. “You still have to love your family. You still have to reach across the table … Della is lovable because most of the time your family members are lovable … You have to give people time to change, reevaluate and change some more.”
Brunstetter has previously written for ABC Family’s Switched at Birth and Starz’s American Gods. Her other plays include Going to a Place Where You Already Are (South Coast Rep), The Oregon Trail (Portland Center Stage), Be a Good Little Widow (Ars Nova) and Oohrah! (Atlantic Theater Company). Brunstetter is currently working on musicals with Karen O and Cinco Paul. She holds a BA UNC Chapel Hill & a MFA in Dramatic Writing from the New School for Drama. Brunstetter was a founding member of the Kilroys.
THE CAKE will run May 17 – June 23, 2019 (Press Opening: May 24, 2019). Performances are Wednesday through Sunday (Wed-Fri at 8pm, Sat at 3pm & 8pm, Sun at 5pm). There are no matinees on May 18, 2019 and June 1, 2019. There is an ADDED MATINEE on Thursday, June 20, 2019 at 11am. Tickets start at $30 for weekdays and $35 for weekends. $20 anytime for teens and full-time student under 25 with valid student ID. Prices are subject to change and will rise as performances fill up. Patrons are encouraged to purchase tickets early for best prices. Seating is general admission. Our intimate theatre is in the heart of Inman Park and Little Five Points at the corner of Euclid and Austin Avenues (1083 Austin Avenue NE, Atlanta, GA 30307), and includes FREE parking. Tickets and information are available at horizontheatre.com or 404.584.7450.
GROUP RATES Group discounts are available for parties of 10 or more. Horizon Theatre offers a lounge space available for rental for pre-show gatherings. Contact Group Sales at 404.523.1477 x111 for more information.
“PIPELINE SHOWCASES AN AMERICAN PLAYWRIGHT IN FULL BLAZE!” — Huffington Post
Horizon Theatre Company is continuing its 35th Anniversary Season with production from the recipient of the MacArthur Foundation “Genius Grant” for 2018 – Dominique Morisseau! PIPELINE, a groundbreaking new play, will hit the Little Five Points stage from March 22 – April 21, 2019. PIPELINE is hailed by Village Voice as “A POWERFUL, PASSIONATE, AND INTELLIGENT NEW PLAY.”
“Pipeline feels ripped from the headlines,” say Marguerite Hannah, Associate Producer at Horizon, “but, this time we are allowed to witness the human backstory of a mother’s fight for her teenage son and her high school students. It is an American story of a family operating in two worlds – the urban inner city education system where the mother works & the affluent private school in which her son attends. The story is set where life and well-meaning choices really exist. Rarely do we see this picture of the black family of today – the love, strength and hope behind the statistic we think we know well.”
In Dominique Morisseau’s PIPELINE, Nya Joseph is a dedicated, inner-city public high school teacher who is committed to her students’ achievement, while she sends her only son, Omari, to a private boarding school. When Omari is involved in a controversial incident which threatens him with expulsion from his school, Nya is forced to reconcile Omari’s actions, her own parental decisions, and the public and private school systems, as she rallies to save her son.
The wife/husband duo of Tinashe Kajese-Bolden & Keith Bolden lead a Suzi Award Winning creative team that includes scenic design from Moriah and Isabel Curley-Clay, projection design from Bradley Bergeron, and lighting design from Mary Parker.
A mother’s hopes for her son clash with an educational system rigged against him in PIPELINE, the riveting new play by Dominique Morisseau. Nya, an inner-city public high school teacher, is committed to her students but desperate to give her only son Omari opportunities they’ll never have. When a controversial incident at his upstate private school threatens to get him expelled, Nya must confront his rage and her own choices as a parent. But will she be able to reach him before a world beyond her control pulls him away? With profound compassion and lyricism, PIPELINE brings an urgent conversation powerfully to the fore. Don’t miss this deeply moving story of a mother’s fight to give her son a future — without turning her back on the community that made him who he is.
“THRILLING! The Wolves keeps you on the edge of your seat.” – The New York Times
Horizon Theatre Company is kicking off its 35th Anniversary Season with a 2017 Pulitzer Prize Finalist for Drama! The Wolves, a groundbreaking new play by Sarah DeLappe, will hit the Little Five Points stage from January 25 through March 3, 2019. The anticipated Southeastern premiere will include a cast of 10 of Atlanta’s best actresses showcasing their acting and athletic prowess as this powerful story takes to the stage.
“High energy and up-to-the-minute, this story of soccer, hopes and dreams takes you inside the rituals and rivalries of a tight team,” explains Horizon Co-Artistic/Producing Director Lisa Adler. “And with audience surrounding the action on the indoor soccer field set, you’ll be on the edge of your seat and in the midst of the action. The smart writing performed by ten of Atlanta’s hottest young talents will score with young and old alike in this touching and dynamic play that Horizon is thrilled to bring to Atlanta.”
Left quad. Right quad. Lunge. A girl’s indoor soccer team warms up. From the safety of their suburban stretch circle, the team navigates big questions and wages tiny battles with all the vim and vigor of a pack of adolescent warriors. A portrait of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for nine American young women who just want to score some goals.
Veteran director Heidi Cline McKerley leads a racially diverse cast with the indoor soccer world created by Suzi-Award-winning resident set designers Moriah and Isabel Curley-Clay and lighting designer Mary Parker.
The Wolves is a fly-on-the-wall look at a girls’ high school indoor soccer team when an uber-talented, but strange and worldly new team member arrives. As they practice on the field in the weeks leading up to the championship, Ms. DeLappe thoughtfully and eloquently opens a window into a complex world of young women facing their future – all in the space of 90 minutes.
“I wanted to see a portrait of teenage girls as human beings — as complicated, nuanced, very idiosyncratic people who weren’t just girlfriends or sex objects or manic pixie dream girls but who were athletes and daughters and students and scholars and people who were trying actively to figure out who they were in this changing world around them,” explains playwright Sarah DeLappe.
The Wolves will run January 25 – March 3, 2019 (Press Opening: February 1). Performances are Wednesday through Sunday (Wed-Fri at 8pm, Sat at 3pm & 8pm, Sun at 5pm). Tickets start at $30 for weekdays and $35 for weekends. $20 anytime for teens and full-time student under 25 with valid student ID. Prices are subject to change and will rise as performances fill up. Patrons are encouraged to purchase tickets early for best prices. Seating is general admission. Our intimate theatre is in the heart of Inman Park and Little Five Points at the corner of Euclid and Austin Avenues (1083 Austin Avenue NE, Atlanta, GA 30307), and includes FREE parking. Tickets and information are available at horizontheatre.com or 404.584.7450.
Group discounts are available for parties of 10 or more. Horizon Theatre offers a lounge space available for rental for pre-show gatherings. Contact Group Sales at 404.523.1477 x111 for more information.
From a Tony Award Winner to a Pulitzer Prize Finalist, Horizon Theatre Company’s 35th Anniversary Season will be its biggest and boldest to date. Once again, Horizon will deliver smart, funny and provocative contemporary plays that change the face of Atlanta Theatre.
by Sarah DeLappe
“Thrilling! THE WOLVES keeps you on the edge of your seat.” — THE NEW YORK TIMES
FINALIST for the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Drama! Left quad. Right quad. Lunge. A girl’s indoor soccer team warms up. From the safety of their suburban stretch circle, the team navigates big questions and wages tiny battles with all the vim and vigor of a pack of adolescent warriors. A portrait of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for nine American girls who just want to score some goals.
Directed by Heidi Cline McKerley
by Dominique Morisseau
“Pipeline showcases an American playwright in full blaze.” — HUFFPOST
Nominated for five 2018 Lucille Lortel Awards, including ‘Outstanding Play.’ In Dominique Morisseau’s PIPELINE, Nya Joseph is a dedicated, inner-city public high school teacher who is committed to her students’ achievement, while she sends her only son, Omari, to a private boarding school. When Omari is involved in a controversial incident which threatens him with expulsion from his school, Nya is forced to reconcile Omari’s anger, her own parental decisions, and the public and private school systems, as she rallies to save her son.
by Bekah Brunstetter
“Brilliant … Powerful and meaningful … abundant wit and humor” – LA Post-Examiner
When Della, a North Carolina Baker and devout Christian, is asked to bake a wedding cake for her best friend’s daughter, she is overjoyed. But that joy is short-lived when she learns that the intended is another bride. Struggling to reconcile her deeply-held belief in “traditional marriage” and the love she has for the woman she helped raise, Della finds herself in strange new territory. Inspired by a story still in the headlines, this marvelously funny new play by Bekah Brunstetter (TV’s This is Us) is proof that love is the key ingredient in creating common ground.
Soon To Be Announced REGIONAL PREMIERE
Horizon favorite Thomas W. Jones II – the director behind the hits Blackberry Daze, Da Kink In My Hair, How Black Mothers Say I Love You, and many more – will come another will come another stunning production, to be announced soon.
Directed by Thomas W. Jones II
THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME
adapted by Simon Stephens
from the book by Mark Haddon
“A beautiful, dazzlingly inventive show about the wonders of life.” – Evening Standard
Winner of 7 Olivier Awards and 5 Tony Awards including ‘Best Play,’The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time brings Mark Haddon’s best-selling novel to thrilling life on stage, adapted by two-time Olivier Award-winning playwright Simon Stephens. Tenacious and intelligent, Christopher is an autistic teenager who’s better at solving equations than navigating a world that’s stubbornly out of sync with how his mind works. After being wrongly accused of murdering his neighbor’s dog, he resolves to find the real culprit. But, when his investigation uncovers painful truths about his family, he dares to strike out on his own, embarking on a thrilling adventure that upturns his whole world.
We Cannot Wait To See You At The Theatre For Our 35th Anniversary Season Of Outstanding Contemporary Plays!
Horizon Theatre Company is ringing in the holiday season with a new tradition! Waffle Palace Christmas, a sequel to the smash-hit show inspired by real events at Waffle House restaurants, will hit the Little Five Points stage from November 16 through December 30. The anticipated world premiere will include familiar faces as well as new, charming cast members dishing up heartfelt southern humor—scattered, smothered and covered in a spicy holiday sauce.
“After staging several sell-out runs of Waffle Palace in past years, we’re excited to bring back the beloved all-night diner and its staff in a new edition perfect for the holiday season,” said Co-Artistic/Producing Director Lisa Adler. “This festive spin on the cordial comedy will serve up a new tradition, filled with laughter and holiday spirit sure to satisfy everyone for seasons to come!”
Waffle Palace Christmas picks up with the vintage Waffle Palace now thriving in the middle of a new modern city multi-use complex. The holiday season is in full swing and the staff is adjusting to new roles, an inexperienced employee and quirky regulars. With Christmas cheer aplenty among the diverse staff and diners, Krampus, a legendary, shape-shifting holiday villain, appears over the restaurant to sabotage the spirit and challenge all in his path.
The holiday spirit is alive and well within the Waffle Palace for customers and staff alike. Long-time, African-American waitress Connie has invested her own savings to keep the Waffle Palace open and is now in partnership with her former boss, John Picket. Connie hires a likeable young cook with no grill experience but artistic talents galore, and a young web developer with some secrets, Alex, begins hanging out at the Waffle Palace daily. Former waitress Esperanza and customer Hugo have returned from a long honeymoon (funded by the lottery she won) and are pregnant, with the baby due on Christmas Day. To top it off, Dave, a young vet who may or may not be homeless, has pitched a tent on the roof where he sings the blues.
As ancient folklore has it, Krampus is often drawn to places filled with holiday cheer and appears one night in a cloud of smoke over the thriving Waffle Palace. In attempt to foil the Waffle Palace’s holiday spirit, Krampus uses his powers to wreak havoc in the restaurant by manipulating the staff, customers, weather and more to his own ends.
Eight actors play 20-plus roles in this story about new beginnings and overcoming the darkness; and of course, an ending with a Christmas birth and Wiccans chanting in the parking lot.
Nomad Motel– a fresh, coming of age comedy-drama about an American and a Chinese family whose lives are unexpectedly linked – makes its Southern debut as the finale of Horizon Theatre Company’s “New American Dreams Series” this fall.
Nomad Motel is a funny and poignant tale of motel kidsand parachute kids raising themselves and making something out of nothing in the land of plenty. Alix lives with her family in a tiny motel room, caring for her brothers while her newly single mom figures out a plan. Her Chinese classmate, Mason, lives alone in a grand, empty house, composing music and dodging child services and immigration while his absent father runs jobs for the Hong Kong mafia. Then suddenly, his father and source of funds disappear, and Alix shows up at his front door without a home. An unlikely friendship is born as they learn to scrape by without giving up on their dreams.
“Both tough and tender, this is a story that will resonate with every parent and grandparent who has struggled through the trials of raising kids,” explains Co-Artistic Director Lisa Adler, “and every teen who is facing the fear and anticipation of adulthood. This intercultural tale of two determined teens and their parents looks at the New American Dream through the eyes of the next generation. It’s an epic story with live music onstage and even a surprising fight scene.”
Nomad Motel was first produced earlier this year at City Theatre Company (Pittsburgh) and will continue later this season with productions at Kansas City’s Unicorn Theatre and Off-Broadway’s Atlantic Theatre. Pittsburgh in the Round says, “Nomad Motel brilliantly depicts the intersection between two groups of young adults [“Parachute Kids” & “Motel Kids”]… who find themselves interconnected in ways that profoundly alter and unify them.”Theatre and television writer Carla Ching takes Atlanta by storm this month with her plays running concurrently at two of Atlanta’s premiere professional theatres. While Horizon is playing Ching’s Nomad Motel intown, her play The Two Kids Who Blow Sh*t Up is also showing at Aurora Theatre in Lawrenceville through September.
ABOUT THE PLAYWRIGHT
“I write to tell the stories of people I know who may not have made it to stage yet,” explains Carla Ching. “Asian American characters that aren’t the stock characters you’ve seen before — the goofy neighbor, the nerdy scientist, the tech guy. But who have layers, regrets, pasts, hopes and enormous dreams for the future.” Her plays focus on broad questions such as “Why are parents so hard on their kids?” and “Why are we so mean to the people we love?” Of Nomad Motel, she says, “I think a lot of what we’re trying to do here, too, is about home, about trying to find family when your own family isn’t around or is dysfunctional or is breaking apart. It’s about trying to find love when you are alone.”
Nomad Motel was a South Coast Repertory Time Warner CrossRoads Commission, and was developed by the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center’s National Playwrights Contest, the National New Play Network Showcase of New Plays, Atlantic Theatre Company’s Mixfest and City Theatre Company. Her play Fast Company (South Coast Rep, Ensemble Studio Theatre, Lyric Stage and Pork Filled Productions; winner of the Edgerton New American Play Award) is published by Samuel French. She is the former Artistic Director of Asian American Theater Company, 2g. On television, Carla has written for USA’s “Graceland”; AMC’s “Fear the Walking Dead,” Amazon’s “I Love Dick,” and is currently working on the forthcoming Hulu drama “The First” from Beau Willimon and AMC’s “Preacher.” www.carlaching.com @carlaching
ABOUT THE CREATIVE TEAM
Horizon’s production is helmed by Atlanta director Melissa Foulger whose work has been seen on many Atlanta stages, including Clybourne Park at Aurora Theatre, Boy at Theatrical Outfit and The Flower Room at Actor’s Express. The production features Kevin Qian as Mason, a recent graduate of the Actor’s Express intern program and former GA Tech student of director Melissa Foulger. Alix is played by Ashley Anderson, who has worked at theatres across Atlanta since she debuted here with her acclaimed work in Ada and the Memory Engine at Essential Theatre last season. Alix’s beleaguered mom Fiona is created by Liza Jaine who has been seen as iconic mothers in Tuck Everlasting at the Alliance and Mary Poppins at the Aurora Theatre. Hailing from Chicago is Wai Yim who takes on the role of James, Mason’s tough father who parents long distance from Hong Kong. Wai has been seen on many premiere Chicago stages including the Goodman Theatre and Lookingglass Theatre. Finally, Oscar, Alix’s teen friend who takes her in, is played by Marcellis Cutler, recently seen as the lead in Breath andImagination at ART Station.
The tiny motel/large house split stage set will be created by Horizon’s Suzi-Award-winning resident designers Moriah and Isabel Curley-Clay with lights by resident designer Mary Parker. Original music compositions that Mason creates onstage with electric violin and keyboard are by Okorie Johnson and Kevin Qian. Fight director David Sterritt creates a high energy fight sequence. Sound, costumes and props are by Horizon regulars Thom Jenkins (How to Use A Knife), Nyrobi Moss (How Black Mothers Say I Love You, Blackberry Daze), and Kathryn Muse (Freaky Friday, How Black Mothers Say I Love You).
The phrase “family separation” has taken on new meaning in light of recent events surrounding immigrants and asylum-seekers to the United States. Though the specifics are different, How Black Mothers Say I Love You examines the repercussions of a similar separation for one family, and a path to healing and acceptance. Daphne, the mother in the play, would have come to North America under an immigration program that allowed her to do domestic work in order to earn citizenship. Programs like this often required women to be single, so bringing any children she may have had would be out of the question.
Playwright Trey Anthony originally set this play in Canada to reflect the stories of the women who were part of a Canadian government program that began in 1955. The West Indian Domestic Scheme recruited young women from select West Indian islands to satisfy the country’s need for post-war household labor. However, this scenario, of a mother emigrating to find work and create better opportunities for her family, was and is common all over the world.
Anthony herself comes from a legacy of black mothers who have left their children. She says, “My grandmother left her children in Jamaica and went to England and was separated from them for six years. My paternal grandmother also left her children in search of a better life. Both of my grandmothers were poor women mothering in less than ideal situations. The legacy of mothers leaving continued when my own mother left us in England in search of the Canadian dream. I was left behind… Even though my family is now reunited, we never fully recovered from these separations. We are women who share a complicated herstory of leaving and being left behind.”
The West Indian Domestic Scheme recruited young women from select West Indian islands and enlisted over 2,250 women who left their homes to assist thousands of upper class families in exchange for permanent residency. Due to Canada’s strict and often racially discriminatory immigration laws, the scheme was often the only opportunity for women to migrate to Canada in order to better their families’ lives. By their own accounts, while leaving their children caused them immense sorrow, many of these women felt they had no choice.
Women intending to participate in the scheme submitted an application through their country’s Ministry of Labour. Applicants were required to meet four criteria: they must have been between the ages of 18-35, must have been single, must have received at least an eighth grade education, and must have passed an interview and medical examination conducted by Canadian immigration officers. Once granted access to the program, the women were required to serve one year as a domestic worker earning a salary of $280. Only then could they send for immediate family members and pursue more prestigious job opportunities.
Upon their arrival, migrants were often literally and figuratively isolated from each other and the surrounding community. According to a study conducted by social researcher and anthropologist Frances Henry, many women felt they were unprepared for the isolating, demeaning, and strenuous way of life. While some women expressed a positive experience, the majority of those interviewed cited instances in which they were personally discriminated against. For this reason, many women were forced to continue working as domestic employees for years after their service ended; no established business hired people of color. Racial bigotry at times led women to leave their children in the West Indies permanently to spare them a childhood of alienation.
Brief History of Immigration Legislation in the United States
In 1965, President Lyndon Johnson signed a landmark immigration reform bill, the Hart-Celler Act, into law. It abolished the quota system that had been established by the Johnson-Reed Act of 1924, which critics condemned as a racist contradiction of fundamental American values. For example, the Johnson-Reed Act is the legislation that prevented any citizens from Japan from entering the United States.
By liberalizing the rules for immigration, especially by prioritizing family reunification, the Hart-Celler act stimulated rapid growth of immigration numbers. Once immigrants had naturalized, they were able to sponsor relatives in their native lands in an ever-lengthening migratory process called chain migration, which is an enduring legacy of Hart-Celler that is a significant part of the immigration conversation today.
Unlike flows from other parts of the world, the uptick in Caribbean immigration was not necessarily prompted by the 1965 Hart-Celler Act because migration from the Western Hemisphere had not been subject to the national origin quotas set in 1924. Instead, the growth had to do with circumstances specific to each country. Migration from Jamaica and other former British colonies was driven by immigration restrictions set by the United Kingdom and the simultaneous recruitment by the United States of English-speaking workers of varying skill levels, from rural laborers to domestic workers to nurses. At present, Jamaicans are the largest group of American immigrants from the English-speaking Caribbean.
I come from a legacy of black mothers who have left their children. My grandmother left her children in Jamaica and went to England and was separated from them for six years. My paternal grandmother also left her children in search of a better life. Both of my grandmothers were poor womyn mothering in less than ideal situations. The legacy of mothers leaving continued when my own mother left us in England in search of the Canadian dream. I was left behind…
Even though my family is now reunited, we never fully recovered from these separations. We are womyn who share a complicated herstory of leaving and being left behind. As a result, we are storytellers, telling jokes rather than talking about feelings. Silences feel dangerous and “I love you” is replaced with overflowing plates of rice & peas and chicken. Yet, even with the many things left unsaid, I have no doubt that my mother and grandmother love(d) me and each other fiercely.
When my 80-year old grandmother was diagnosed with terminal cancer, for the first time, she seemed compelled to finally talk about her past. Armed with just an iPhone and pen and paper, I eagerly recorded her response.
Me: “Gran, do you have any regrets?”
Gran: “My biggest regret was leaving my children, they have never forgiven me, especially your mother. Sometimes as a mother you have to do what is best for your children. But they will never understand.”
How Black Mothers Say I Love You became my own way of trying to understand this complicated herstory of my family. It is the love letter of understanding… It is written for all those that had to leave, and for those left behind. It is for every mother who is mothering under less than ideal circumstances. It is for every daughter who is trying to find her own place of healing while navigating her own childhood hurts.
We are all hurting, all feeling that we need more love and understanding in our lives. I affirm daily to be kinder, softer, and more loving to everyone I encounter. I wish to hold black womyn and especially my mother, in a kinder, safer, more gentle space. How Black Mothers Say I Love You, is my gentle place, my kinder more forgiving place… There is great love here for you.
I would like to thank my beautiful and amazing life partner, Dr. Vernetta Harris, my grandmothers and mother, and my family/friends for all of their love and support.
I want to truly thank you for coming out to see my play, and please stay in touch I can be reached on Instagram @blackgirlinlove and on Facebook, under trey anthony. Please keep spreading the word to ensure diverse stories continue to be told. Much love.
– Trey Anthony
Trey Anthony was Horizon’s National New Play Network Playwright-in-Residence in 2016, during which time Horizon produced her smash hit, Da Kink in My Hair, and workshopped her new play, How Black Mothers Say I Love You. Both plays were directed by Artistic Associate Thomas W. Jones II and the Black Mothers workshop featured Yvonne Singh and Minka Wiltz in the same roles you’ll see them in for this production. We are thrilled to present the American premiere of the play after its great success in Canada.