The Moments Before The Show

Moment: Blog Four Days Before Opening

Narrator: The following pieces are excerpts from Afftene Taylor’s thoughts made to the blog prior to the April 5th deadline. It is four days from the opening of the show.

Moment: It’s More Than Me

This weekend, over a span of two 5-hour rehearsals, we finally got a chance to see what the “real” Laramie would look like.  Also, it finally hit me that – this thing, this play – is so much more than me. The 200+ lighting cues, the nearly 5 to 6 dozen costume pieces, and the original musical accompaniment all working together this past weekend has finally come together to reveal a beautiful, moving (literally) piece of art.

Moment: It Hasn’t Hit Me

For the readers out there, right now, as I am writing this blog, it is 8:00pm on Sunday, April 3rd, 2011 – four days before we open. I am not nervous one bit. I’m not even kinda nervous. I feel we have done it so many times that I would actually prefer if we could just do it tomorrow. I just want to get it over with. I want to see other people seeing this, experiencing this the way I’ve experienced it so many times before. I can’t wait to see how the audience will experience this every single night, how their laughing points will differ from night to night, where they will cry, or how frightful and taken aback they will be when I yell “God Hates Fags” to them in their faces. April 7th, where are you?

Moment: It Ain’t Just Burning in Laramie

Being a native of the South (I’m from Bessemer, Alabama – 15 miles west of Birmingham) and a student of a school that boasts a geographically diverse student population, I am sometimes asked the big “RACISM” question:

Duke Student: (In a hushed whisper) How do they treat black people in Alabama (They say “Alabama” in a really bad and insulting Southern accent)?

Me: Uh…I guess just about as good or as bad as anywhere else.

Duke Student: Really? Wow! I guess I would have never imagined that.

Me: (Awkwardly) …Yeah

Duke Student: Because you know I’ve heard things…

Me: You’ve heard things?

Duke Student: Yeah…(Awkward Silence)…So , I won’t hear the n-word like yelled to me from across the street or anything like that.

Me: All I can say is that in the 20 years I’ve lived in Alabama that has never happened. It is the place I call home. My sister was born there, my mother and father was born there, and I doubt that they would have continued to live in Alabama if they felt that they constantly felt like they were being judged/harassed based on the color of their skin.

I cannot tell you how many times I have had this conversation with people who are not from Alabama. For some reason, I have to justify my contentment with living in Alabama and being a black woman. Now, I am not naïve. I am well aware of the horrid racist struggle that took place during the Civil Rights Movement just 50-60 years ago. However, when people ask me the “racism” question, they are implying that racism took/takes place nowhere else. You don’t hear people asking New Yorkers or Chicagoans that question. NEWS FLASH: RACISM IS NOT A SOUTHERN VALUE.

This brings to mind a quote that I use often in situations like these: “It ain’t just burning in Mississippi; Hell is hot wherever you be.” Simply put, prejudice does not call every state below the Mason-Dixon Line its home. Racism is not just burning in certain places.

The same thing can be said about homophobia and Laramie. For every small town like Laramie that struggles with homophobia, there are big cities that still have people who are holding on to prejudice ideals of the past. Just recently, Damian Furtch, a gay man was brutally beaten outside of a New York City McDonalds. The police are investigating this as a hate crime. Click the link for more information.

New York City is considered to be one of the most forward-thinking, open-minded cities in the country. If homophobia can take place there, it can take place anywhere. It ain’t just burning in Laramie; Hell is hot wherever you be.

3 thoughts on “The Moments Before The Show

  1. Afftene —

    I think you’ve hit upon the very key for how The Laramie *Project* quickly becomes The “fill in the blank town/city” Project. It illustrates the collection of preconceptions (on the part of insiders and outsiders) that people carry about how their place of location vs. “somewhere else” and how those attitudes feed and are fed by media and other mechanisms of storytelling (including theater!) especially in the face of conflict. I almost caught a bit of Sgt. Hing’s attitude from the opening moment in the way you recall your story about how “Duke student” spoke to you about Alabama. It’s easier to think of ‘-isms’ and ‘phobias’ as limited to “somewhere else” because it’s hard to believe that we individually have roles in the wider presumptions and fears based on race, gender, sexuality, class, ethnicity, and religion. Our homes feel like home because they are the places we have cultivated, broken in, and often feed/sustain us.

    I think about Marge’s insistence about the “class distinction” that exists in Laramie — “the educated don’t understand why the ones that are not don’t get educated”. It’s a phrase that makes it into the play because it sums up the presumptions that the play’s wider audience might be having themselves about Laramie. But, the play is structured to show that just as Aaron and Russell’s actions are a series of choices that lead them to a particular end, Laramie’s wider citizenry makes choices about how to treat each other that lead to how they handle this event. The play takes the lid off the workings of one town so that we can look into our own position, our own hometowns and consider what we would do and have done to make our communities and consider how we would act. I think it also gives us a chance to reflect on how many assumptions we project onto other people and places. How easy it is to mistake that the stories we’ve heard from non-citizens (and from non-experience ourselves) are true/complete.

    Not that you need another project, but I wonder what kind of stories you’d find if you’d start to collect them from your hometown. What would you of your circle of friends and family about place and home? Not necessarily a project that announces itself to be about “race” but about “home”. What would experiencing it through its residents’ eyes teach non-residents about life in that very one, real and diverse place in the American south? What is Afftene’s Alabama?


  2. Great post Afftene! In both style and content.
    Also, when you wrote:”Me: (Awkwardly) …Yeah”, it definitely was just like Ben’s awkward ‘yeah’ in the first Zubaida monologue, lol. I need to pick up that cue so much faster!

  3. Afftene,

    This is a terrific post. I love the way in which a core idea branches out, like a stone thrown in a pool of water with reverberation after reverberation echoing from the point of impact.

    I am so pleased with your work on this show. It is incredibly strong and articulate.

    You have made solid choices and those choices continue to deepen each time I see you perform. Your voice and presence fills the room each time your up to bat you take control of your characters. Your Marge is strong and funny and ultimately vulnerable and very, very human. The Baptist Minister not only rings true, but you can tell in the phone call that regardless of what he says, there is a conflict for him as well. I sense in your portrayal that the conflict does now strengthen his resolve as much as challenges it. Jeffrey Lockwood is a character that is totally different and delivers a high impact statement. Get in and get out. But saying it “correct!” Shadow is one of my favorites….Just because the transformation is so solid and really shows off your versatility as an actress. I am very proud of the work you have done and I can’t imagine having done this project without you.

    Best- Jeffrey

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