Life Isn't a F****ing Cotillion
Oh, calm down. You've seen curse words before. Look, I even added lil' asterisks to make you feel better. But asterisks or not, the message is still potent.
Recently, I was invited to see a play at Steppenwolf Theater and I was really excited because I do have an interest in stepping up my theater game (no pun intended). There is something really authentic about seeing folks perform, in the flesh, absent of a screen. It's breathtaking almost; an experience for both the actors and the audience. I believe I was invited to this particular play because it centers around millennial women and I happen to be a millennial woman, so in true form, there were purse cocktails and corner store snacks to make this experience even better. Because life comes at you fast and you gotta have snacks.
BLKS, a stage play written by a fairly new playwright, Aziza Barnes, about four young women of color gettin' grown (this is one of my favorite sayings and favorite podcasts) in a heavy world, but still trying to flourish. And by flourish I mean, actually enjoying life -- laughing, loving and leaning on their sisterhood/friendship to get through the not-so-pretty moments life loves to throw our way.
Throughout my 20s, I have had more than a few moments when I realized life wasn't a cotillion and unlike the women in play, I haven't had a "group" of girlfriends I can lean on during these troubling times. Now don't get me wrong, I know a lot of people, I certainly have friends, but I also don't allow myself to get too close to anyone. This is something I recognize and am trying to improve upon. Like, Joan and her girls from Girlfriends or Khadijah and her crew...I've never had that experience. You can't move through life keeping everyone at a distance. There are going to be moments, just as there were in the play, where you just need the support of ya girls -- even if it's only to share a laugh. As I move through this final year of the 20s, I'm trying to be super conscious of my communication with my friends, being open to new ones and accepting of the fact, as a woman, you simply outgrow certain depths of friendships and that's ok. I know that I'm growing as a person -- as a woman. as a creative. And everyone isn't going to understand (or need to be a part of) that journey. But in the same vein, I want to make myself open to creating (and sustaining) long-lasting relationships with friends who truly impact my life and also being a friend who has something of substance to offer always. Anyway. This post isn't about me. Entirely.
As the Trib put it, the women — Octavia (Nora Carroll), June (Leea Ayers), Imani (Celeste Cooper) and Ry (Danielle Davis) — have to navigate the possibilities and inconsistencies of friendships, lovers and each other, gay, straight or otherwise. The two-hour play takes place in the span of only 24 hours and boy is there a lot happening. IMO, Octavia and June are both on the insecure side and have a deep desire to to be loved + adorned -- except, Octavia's sexuality is fleeting, which is problematic for Ry, a proud lesbian, wanting serious commitment. June's relationship has ended recently, and her life is in shambles -- or so she feels. The same day of her break-up, she goes to the club that night and tells a stranger (practically) she loves him! Imani is the most mature of the group, I actually thought she was a bit older than the other ladies -- she is a supportive friend, confident and outspoken. All of the ladies are funny, but I thought Imani added the most comedic relief and made light of some of the darker moments in the play. Since the #MeToo movement is fresh on our minds (but certainly not new), there were a few moments in the story I thought would have been completely different if the play took place in the current era; it was set during 2014/2015, a time when the #BlackLivesMatter movement was a hot button topic. I think what's really interesting about this play is that we see so many emotions and personalities displayed in each of the characters, bringing forth a real authenticity and relatable aspect. Watching, I'm sure you could see traits of some of your friends in at least one of the characters, if not all. What I took away from the play is that, there are going to be things in your life you don't have control over that happen to you. There are going to be bad things you experience that make you feel your world is ending, but really, all of this is just "stuff." Ya know? As long as you're surrounded by love, doing good (or trying to anyway) and learning from life's lessons, that's really all you can do. Oh, and remain positive no matter what happens. Happiness is a mindset; a decision. And though the girls in BLKS weren't always placed in the happiest situations, there was definitely a commitment to being there for one another.
I was fortunate enough to have a phone interview with the director of the play, Nataki Garrett, shortly after seeing it (thanks Micaeh); I'll share the audio below. I was interested in knowing a few things:
- How would the play be different if it was set now, at the peak of the #MeToo movement
- After comparison to Lena Dunham's series, Girls on HBO, how is BLKS different (Let me just say, I didn't hate Girls, but I certainly struggled to resonate with it; Lena was just writing her truth though, can't be mad at that. But how do you have a comedic drama set in the 2000s in BROOKLYN with ZERO Black people?! Whatever. That argument has already been made)
- What role did costume design play in the creation of each of the characters
If you're in Chicago, and haven't seen the play yet, I encourage you to do so. It's only here through January 28, so get on it.
I'll leave you with a thought on the play from Aziza:
this is a play by blk people and for blk people.
the absurd, the treacherous, the disgust
the heartbreak, the gorgeous of our days.
I am inviting blk people to live fully here.
those on stage and off...
Life isn't a fucking cotillion.