Walter Mencken 1 p.m., May 1
The Cast Looks at Brownie Points
On the surface, Janece Shaffer's comedy-drama sounds pleasant enough. Girl Scouts go camping in the Northern Georgia pines. Five mothers tag along: two are troop leaders, three want to watch their daughters earn Brownie points. Things fall apart when Allison assigns Deidre and Nicole KP duty for the entire weekend. Allison's Caucasian; Deidre and Nicole are African-Americans. Drama ensues: about racism, bigotry, women's roles, motherhood, and friendship.
Lamb's Players' five-person cast faces these questions head-on — and I wondered what the experience in general, and particular moments, meant to them personally.
KARSON ST. JOHN (Allison): "In today's world, we're used to wearing masks, projecting the self we want to be. But that's so exhausting. The moments in the play when the mask comes off, the moments of vulnerability — revealing both the beautiful and the ugly — touch me the most: Allison's breakdown; Sue's story of her friendship with Ali; Nicole's explanation of the impact of Deidre's experience; Jamie's optimism; the small handshake of peace at the end — they reveal what's true."
CYNTHIA GERBER (Sue): "The women share one thing in common: they are all mothers, and each wants the best for her children. My character talks about how much simpler things were when she was growing up and now, as a single mother, she struggles with the guilt she feels about divorcing Brook's daddy. Each woman asks: am I doing enough, am I making the right choices, am I enough for my child? I am a parent, so this rings true for me. I have to leave home most evenings to work in the theater, and leave my kids. The best I can do is be completely present when I'm with them. So I understand the desire to do enough and be enough for my kids."
CAITIE GRADY (understudy): "It has been such a treat watching, listening, and taking part in the conversations and debates this piece inspires. Having grown up in Coronado, I am thrilled to be involved in a project that provokes thoughts and feelings JUST outside a good number of our patrons' comfort zone."
KAJA AMADO DUNN (Nicole): "As an African-American actress, with some Jewish parentage, and a family of various shades and cultures, the conversations in the play are familiar. My mother was that little girl who integrated her private school. Nicole tries to walk the line between her white friends, while dealing with the realities of a world that is far from 'post-racial.' Her friends are looking for quick and tidy answers and there are not any. What I love about the play: it doesn't try to provide all the answers. It gives us a way into the conversation."
ERIKA BETH PHILLIPS (Jamie): "A moment in my scene with Deidre has grown deeper as we continue the [play's] run. Jamie is Jewish. Her niece had a meltdown while reading The Diary of Anne Frank. Jamie wants to know 'How can we tell our kids this is who we are without making them feel like a victim?' Learning about your cultural heritage, including the victimization, and adopting it onto your identity is a tricky one. I wrestled with it as a child, and in large part this exact issue defined my relationship with my family's religion for life: How do you present your cultural heritage truthfully to your kids without robbing them of an opportunity to be proud of who they are? How do you prepare your children for the likelihood of experiencing prejudice without setting up a mindset where they are 'looking for it'? How does a legacy of atrocities against 'your kind' affect how you feel about yourself, how you operate in society, and how to face the future?"
MONIQUE GAFFNEY (Deidre): "As an African-American, racial understanding is something my artistic work often deals with. Racial injustice is something I live every day. The mini daily character assassinations I experience are hard to describe, let alone relive. However, at this point in my life, I have learned how to navigate. I say all this because the question of race asks of the oppressed: who are you? Race always brings a person's identity into question. And that is always a sensitive question. The way it is approached and handled requires sophisticated maneuvering."
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