Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Play a Day: Hottentotted

Charly Evon Simpson
For Wednesday I read Hottentotted by Charly Evon Simpson and available at New Play Exchange.

At the end of Lysistrata, the men of Greece use a woman as a map to divide territory and determine the terms of peace. It's played for comedy, but as critic Amy Bracken Sparks pointed out in her review of the Bad Epitaph production in 2000, "the image is as old as strife."
"War is essentially fought on a woman's body, be she the earth, the country, or the women left behind to tend to things such as holding the country together." 
I was reminded of this metaphor, of woman's body as terrain, as I read Hottentotted, a bold and beautiful examination of the black female body, and how it is seen. Seen by the other, seen by itself. How they are watched, judged, fetishized, exalted, scorned and controlled. Led by the famous “Hottentot Venus” Saartjie or Sarah Bartman, six performers explore a life and a history of being looked at.

It is a haunting piece, exploring the dichotomy between that which is perceived as beautiful and unsightly, self-denial and self-awareness. Of wanting to be something else, and the struggle towards empowerment, safety, and self-love.

In performance Hottentotted should be a very physical piece, the stage directions are both graceful and haunting. And in the final moments the audience (and this reading audience) is reminded that the watchers watch, also.

Who should I read tomorrow?

Source: "Rowdy Romps" by Amy Bracken Sparks, The Free Times (5/24/2000)

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