Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Lady

I am a devoted Heights Schools parent. Perhaps I could do more to contribute to the betterment of my children’s education, but I am doing what I can. I attend PTA meetings, volunteer when possible. I cannot describe the joy I felt being able to bring the GLTF School Residency Program, to which I have devoted the past ten years of my life, to a school where my own child could experience it.

My daughter and my taxes go to Noble Elementary School.

Noble Elementary c. 1960

Last year when she was in first grade I heard there was going to be a Black History Month program, featuring a short play. Even then I began trying to come up with an idea for a play I could write which would be suitable, from the point of view of appropriate, and entertaining, and worthwhile content -- as well as something that was practical, that ten year-old could memorize and perform on a minimal (non-existent) budget.

What emerged is my new ten-minute play, The Lady. If the subject is Black History, then I didn’t just want to write about slavery, Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass or anything like that. Not that these stories aren’t important, they are. But I was reminded of my daughter’s American Girl dolls - the only African-American doll is Addy Walker, a runaway slave girl from 1864. No South Side Chicago girl doll from 1964, nor the Black daughter of a Republican Representative doll from 1994. Just the former slave girl doll. We have all come so far, and there are so many stories.

When it became evident that Michelle Obama would be our first African-American First Lady, historians went to work and discovered family history she herself was unaware of, stretching back to the pre-Civil War era on her mother’s side. Using the simple framework of an interview for my play, Mrs. Obama sets the scene for three vignettes which reference not only the voyage from slavery, but also the Great Migration and the rise of the Black Middle Class. In seven pages.

I met today with the Young Ladies of Noble, a group of select fifth grade girls, who will be performing this work in late February. They were all very excited. It was delightful to hear them read it out loud. I will be joining them several times in during the next six weeks to direct the piece. I think we are all going to have a lot of fun.

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