After reading both Djanet Sears’ Harlem Duet and Sears’ essay “nOTES oF a cOLOUREDgIRL: 32 sHORT rEASONS wHY i wRITE fOR tHE tHEATRE”, answer each of the following questions in formal, written paragraphs.
1. When and where does the action of Harlem Duet take place? Discuss the significance of Sears’ choices re. the setting of this play.
2. Articulate a response to Sears’ essay, “nOTES oF a cOLOURED gIRL: 32 sHORT rEASONS wHY i wRITE fOR tHE tHEATRE” (written in 1997 as the original introduction to the published script). You may choose any aspect(s) of the essay to respond to. You may ask questions, make connections (to your experience, to your knowledge, and, of course, to the play), or describe what/how it made you think or feel. The main thing is to clearly articulate your close and thoughtful engagement with one or more of the ideas in this essay.
3. Sears has describes Harlem Duet as “an effort to exorcise [the] ghost” of Shakespeare’s most well-known Black character, Othello. Share your thoughts on the relationship between Harlem Duet and Shakespeare’s play, Othello. If you are unfamiliar with Shakespeare’s play, that is completely okay; in that case, I invite you to reflect on: any details in the play that helped you make sense of the connection to Shakespeare; any questions or points of confusion that arose for you about the adaptation; and/or whether you think Harlem Duet works as a play even without the Shakespeare connection.
Both documents required for the question are attached below.
After reading both Djanet Sears’ Harlem Duet and Sears’ essay “nOTES oF a cOLOURED gIRL: 32 sHORT rEASONS wHY i wRITE fOR tHE tHEATRE”, answer each of the following questions in formal, written paragr
Univers ity of Winnipeg Library Course R eserves Depart ment 204.78 6.9809 [email protected] Your d ocument begins after this page. D ISCLAIMER This copy was made pursuant to the Copyright Policy of the University of Winnipeg. The copy may only be used for the purpose of research, private study, criticism, review, news reporting, education, satire , or parody. If the copy is used for the purpose of review, criticism, or news reporting, the source and the name of the author must be mentioned. The use of this copy for any other purpose may require the permission of the Copyright owner. J SE 5 Harlem Duet firstpublished 1997 by Scirocco Drama An imprintof J. Gordon Shillingford PublishingInc. ©1996 Djanet Sears Reprinted September 1998 Scirocco Drama Editor: Dave Carley Cover design byTerry Gallagher /Doowah Design Cover illustration by W. Edwards Author photo by Tim Leyes Production photosby Cylla Von Tiedemann Printed and bound inCanada We acknowledge the support of theManitoba ArtsCouncil and The Canada Council for the Arts for our publishing program. All rights reserved. No part of this book may bereproduced, for anyreason, by any means, without thepermission of thepublisher. This play is fully protected under the copyright lawsofCanada and all other countries of the Copyright Union and issubject toroyalty. Changes to the text are expressly forbidden without written consent of theauthor. Rights to produce,film, record inwhole or inpart, in any medium or in any language, by any group amateur orprofessional, areretained by theauthor. Production inquiriesshouldbe addressed to: John Rait, A.C.l., 205 OntarioStreet,Toronto, ON M5A 2V6 All other enquiries shouldbeaddressed to: Playwrights Unionof Canada 54Wolseley St., 2nd Floor,Toronto, ON M5T lAS Canadian Cataloguing in Publication Data Sears, Djanet Harlem duet A play. ISBN 1-896239-27-7 1.Title. PS8587.E23H371997 C812′.54 PR9199.3.S383H37 1997 C97 -901003-9 a gl 32sHORT by Djanet Sears 1 Carved from that same tree in another age counsel/warriors who in the mother tongue made drums talk now in another tongue make words to walk in rhythm Icross the printed page carved from that same tree in another age Khephra Talking Drums #1 (Khephra 125) 2Two years ago Ifound myself speaking with esteemed writer and Nobel laureate, Derek Walcott, about an upcoming staged reading Iwas directing ofhis play, ABranch of the Blue Nile. Toward the end of our conversation Ipolitely requested an opportunity to ask him, what Itermed, astupid question. His eyebrows seemed tocrawl up to his hairline, but he didn’t say no. Not that Igave him a chance. Swiftly managing to kick all second thoughts out of my mind, Iboldly asked him to tell me why he wrote. He retreated to the back of his seat, and after several long moments of pondering, he replied, UI don’t know.” He said that writing really wasn’t a . choice for him. From as far back as he could recall, he had written. 12 HARLEM Hedescribed it as a type oforganic urge. He didn’t know why he wrote, but when he experienced thisurge, he felt compelled to act on it. Be it on a plane,firstthing in the morning, orlast thing at night. 3 From as far backas I can recall, I neverbelieved inmiracles. My life had taught me not to. Then Iwitnessed the birth of my sister’s daughter. I’d seen birth films. I’d even studied human reproduction at the undergraduate level. But this childcame out of my sister-already alive. I mean, not yetfully born, her head alone protruding from between her mother’s legs,shewailed. Fullof voice, she slipped out of the velvety darkness that was her mother’s womb, into thelight. I was overcome. I watched asthis tiny, golden-umber colouredsoul,caught by an opaque rubber gloved doctor, in a white coat,was separated from theplacenta and bundled into blanched cloth. Istoodtherefor a moment and wondered how she would come to know ofherself, blinded by the glare ofsnow? What would this fair world tell her? I experienced such asadness for her-or maybeit was for myself. I wanted something differentfor her. 4 I wanted there to be no question ofher right to take up space on this planet. 5 I was already eighteen when Isaw Ntozake Shange’s For Coloured Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When The Rainbow Is Enufin New York City. This was the first live stage production by awriter of African descentI had everseen. 6 This will not be Qwyn’s fate. 7 She must have access to a choirofAfrican voices,chanting a multiplicity ofAfrican experiences. Onevoice does not achorus make. And Iwill not wait. 8 I harbour deep within me tales that I’venever seen told. 9 I too must become an organ and add my perspective, my lens, my stories, to theevergrowing body of work by and about people ofAfrican descent. Thirty-seven yearsago, and nine months before I was born, in a country overthree thousand miles away, Lorraine Hansberry began rehearsals for her firstplay. In the season of my birth, Raisin in the Sun opened toextraordinary critical and popular acclaim. .. .Raisin in the Sun marked aturning point,foruntil thistime no black writer, black actor, black director, or technician had 13 benefitedfinancially from any ofthe plays about black people that had been presented (in the commercial theatre). (King vii) An oldWestAfrican proverb statesthat,as apeople, we stand onthe shoulders of our ancestors. Lorraine Hansberry is my mother-in the theatre-and she accompanies me wherever I go. I have been known to drop her a few lines, now and then. Yes, she responds. As a woman ofAfrican descent, and awriter·for the stage, I stand on her shoulders. They area firm and formidable foundation on which torest my large and awkward feet. Acting is a craft that Ihave been called to by my nature. Writing is a craft that Ihave chosen tonurture. As a young actor, I soon realized that amajority of therolesthatI would beoffered did not portray me in the way Isaw myself, my family, or my friends, in life. I became consumed by my own complaining. 19 Complaining, imploring, and protesting onlyserved todisperse my energy. Protest takesanenormous toll. We can and should makenoise; however, in most cases our screamsfall upon deaf ears. Don’t getme wrong here, without protest we’d never have had the likes of Martin, Malcolm, orAngela. Activism is acraft in and of itself. My skills are as a theatrepractitioner, and this is the medium Imust use. That’s why I am so impressed by artistslikeBaraka, Sanchez; Bullins, Caldwell, Hansberry, Baldwin,Giovanni, Milner, and Ahmad, many of whom were involved in the Black Arts Movement of the 1960’s. The fact is theyused their work as a vehicle with which to express personal and political passions. 22 In early 1993, Christine Moynihan approached me, onbehalfof the Toronto TheatreAlliance and EquityShowcase Productions, about coordinating thespring ‘LoonCafe'(aone-off evening of presentations involvinga host ofperformers, directors,writers, production workers,designers and supporters). Iagreed, onthe condition that Icould do anything. In the ensuing weeks I developed the blueprint for the evening which Ititled: Negrophilia: An African American Retrospective: 1959-1971. Thethree studio spaces ofEquity Showcase were renamed Obsidian, Onyx and Jet. And theevents takingplace,threeineach room over thecourse of the evening, involved readings, performances and discussions 14HARLEM Vuet around Blacktheatre inAmerica. There were plays that Ihad loved and had only read. One new piece, Jimmy and Lola, was a collaboration, based on an ideathat had been brewing inside of me for ages. Performed onthe rooftop of anadjacent building, the play tells the story of the relationship between JamesBaldwin and Lorraine Hansberry. The entire event was inspirational; arousing. celebration of Blackness. I have adream. A dream that one day in the city where I live, at any giventimeofthe year, Iwill be able to findatleast one play that is filled with people who looklike me, tellingstories about me, my family, my friends, ·mycommunity. For most peopleof European descent, thisis aprivilege theytake for granted. Like Derek Walcott, I too have no choice. I must write my own work for the theatre.I must produce my own work, and the work ofother writers ofAfrican descent. Then my nieces’experience of this world will almost certainly bedifferent from my own. 25 But where do I start? How do I find the words? My good friend Clarissa Chandler, abusiness consultant, educator, and motivational speaker, shared with me aprocess for using my nagging mind and ragingheart,as a way to get back in touch with my innermost knowing and creative desires.She identified three steps of transformation that Icould use like footprints leadingmeback home. 27 First: identifytheplace ofcomplaint. (This cansometimes be evident inthe complaining we do inhiding,inconversation with friends, and/or in the privacy of our own minds.)Second: Say it out loud.Create a mantra out of it. (Give it room in theworld). Third: locateacreative point of expression for thismantra. 28 Paint it,dance it,sculpt it, orwrite about it. Why limityourself? 29 As a veteran theatre practitioner of African Descent, Shakespeare’s Othello had haunted me since I first was introduced to him. Sir LaurenceOlivierinblack-face. Othellois thethefirst African portrayed in the annals of western dramatic literature. In an effort to exorcise thisghost, Ihave written Harlem Duet. Harlem Duet, a rhapsodic bluestragedy, explores theeffects of race and sex on the lives ofpeople ofAfrican descent. It is a tale of love. A taleof 15 Othello and his first wife, Billie. Set in 1860,1928 and contemporary Harlem atthe corner ofMalcolm X and Martin LutherKingBoulevards, this is Billie’s story.Theexorcism begins. 30 For the many like me, black and female, it is imperative that our writing begin torecreate our histories and our myths, as well as integrate the most painfulofexperiences … (Philip25) Writing for me is alabour of love, probably not unliketheexperience ofgiving birth. In a very deep way,I feel that I am in the processofgiving birth tomyself. Writing forthe stage allows me aprocess to dream myselfintoexistence. . 31 In a recentclinical study at Duke University researchers found that racistcomments can not only leaddirectly to anoverworked heart, but the internal stresscaused byracism was found totear the lining of blood vessels. I must write tosave my own life. 32 There areagreat many times when I forget. I forget why I’m doing this.Days when theblues move froma deep cerulean to icy cold pale. So I have thefollowing words by Langston Hughes from “Note on Commercial Theatre”,on my wall, just above my desk, for those times when Imost need reminding. SOMEDAY SOMEBODY’LL STAND UP AND TALK ABOUT ME, AND WRITE ABOUT ME- BLACK AND BEAUTIFUL AND SING ABOUT ME, AND PUT ON PLAYS ABOUT ME! I RECKON IT’LL BE ME MYSELF! YES, IT’LL BE ME.