Last month a couple of my black friends told me they were going to see a new Broadway show called Slave Play. I asked them why they would want to go see a play about slaves. The response I got was "I heard it's really good." Then I thought to myself, "Ain't nothing good about slavery." My friends came back to me after the show and told me that I'd like it. I had the opportunity to see the play myself this weekend. I needed to see what all the hype was about.
Slave Play was written by Jeremy O. Harris, a black, male playwright. Walking into the theater, I was silently judging every white person in there. And there were A LOT of white people in the theater. To me it felt like "Dang. They couldn't wait to get in here to see a play about slaves." As a black woman, I'm just a little tired of the "slave narrative." I'm tired of us revisiting a time when black people were seen as property. When the show began with a sweeping black woman dressed in "slave attire," I sank into my seat. Watching her interact with her white scene partner made me feel slightly uncomfortable. I just wanted to get this over with.
Then I caught interest in the other two couples. I was surprised by the comedy in the dialogue and the nudity that was shown on stage. Now they had my interest. So I thought, "Cool. This is going to be some sexy slavery tale. I can dig that." Then the play flips everything on its head! The couples were all participating in some sort of interracial couple group therapy. That whole plot is so very clever. I thought the play had a perfect blend of comedic and serious moments. I was paying extra attention now. The two therapists' comedic timing complimented each other well as they tried to navigate what their attendees were feeling.
Listening to the stories of the couples was both hilarious and heartbreaking. For example, there was one story that stood out to me. The biracial man, Phillip, is going on about how he went to a white school. He said he never saw himself as a color. He says he was just "Phillip." It wasn't until his white schoolmates pointed out his blackness that he started to see it as well. I've been black my whole life and I've never thought of myself as just "Cearia." I have always thought of myself as "Black Cearia." I think this way because I know that my skin color is the first thing people see. They don't see my personality. They don't see my bank account. They see my skin.
My skin color affects how I see the world. I am always inclined to point out differences of race wherever I go. During the previous semester, I performed in City College's production of Dry Land. I wasn't originally cast. I took the spot of a girl who couldn't do the play. During our first table read, the whole cast was present. I looked around the room and I was the only black person in there. Yes, we did have two Latina women but they were white passing. Later on in the semester I found out the identity of whom I was replacing. She was white. I still think about how white that show would have been had I not been in it. Our director was white as well. Maybe it's not her fault that I ended up being the darkest person there, maybe she didn't notice. I noticed. I always notice.
Overall, Slave Play empowered me. It was refreshing to see a black woman who was taking control of her life. On stage there was a black woman, who wasn't going to submit to her man, a white man. I silently cheered her on. I stared at her with so much intensity, hoping she could feel the power and respect that I was transferring to her telekinetically from somewhere in the sea of audience members. This play made me feel desirable. It somehow turned on a switch that made me appreciate and love the black body that I walked in with even more.
Miss Scipio is a 22 year-old aspiring actress who is currently attending City College. Her instagram is @Rotiprincess.
I love this article so much, you have such a strong opinion and reading this just enforced that. Please write more!!
This is perfectly said! As someone who watched this play about a week ago, I completely understand your message and agree. Your passion is instilled in me and has given me another perspective of this eye-opening performance. Once again, well done!
Loved this article and what you had to say. Will for sure check it out!