For the Girls Who Tell Stories…


My month – last month – started off well, full of good intentions with the exception of scrambling for references for a certain competition.  It’s always hard to ask – again.  It’s not hard to know who to ask just hard to ask someone to write that reference one more time and you hope you won’t have to ask next year because you’ll be successful and there will be no need to ask again – you hope.  Near the middle of the month – September, the heaviness that accompanies the submission period hit me like a brick…  This time of the year is also the most demanding period of my “day job” which causes the inevitable fight to replenish myself in order to just keep up with everything.  For some quick R & R, I found myself sneaking moments with Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” which I had never read and even though I have the beginnings of the perfect play to send…somewhere, I couldn’t stay away from the book.  It was like balm; reading it renewed me…like watching the sun set over the Pacific does.  That’s the thing about a good story, it pulls you into that world and out of yours for a moment.  I found Scout’s voice very comforting even though some of the subject matter was not.  I think it was the pure innocence of the child that grabbed me.  It seemed Atticus, Miss Maudie, and even Aunt Alexandra tried very hard to keep the children viewing the world through unskewed eyes.  As long as I could see the events through Scout’s eyes, I could see the patches of light in the middle of the gray. 

There are things about fiction that I try to bring to my playwriting like the full on description of the world to be materialized in some way in my plays and the lingering of sorts, the way a book lingers with you after you have come to know the characters or come face to face with the clear essence of the piece.  I had that experience this past weekend with Jennie Webb’s play, “Yard Sale Signs” about mothers and daughters (playing at the Rogue Machine Theatre).  It’s a comedy but it is so rich and full of stuff, I have to admit, there was a point early in the piece where I heard myself think, “Don’t you dare do that here and now”.  Who cries at a comedy?   So, I laughed instead, it was easy to laugh because it’s a really funny play.  I wasn’t sure I understood it all till the ride home when I couldn’t stop thinking about it, then I woke up the next morning thinking about it.  I’m still thinking about it.  I had never seen a play like that before, it caught me off guard so I promptly put my guard up.  Didn’t matter, it lingered.

The most important thing I came away with from Jennie’s play is that I need to work my  “Mother things” into the mix with approaching deadlines.  Live theater – it is truly a living breathing thing with a voice.  What really draws me to theater is the “right now-ness” of it – right now you are in the characters’ world and they are flesh and bone and if they stumble, you see it unfold, you feel it jumping out at you and you may even jump with them or in response.  You can’t push pause or sit the actors down till you are ready to get back into it; it’s an “off and running” thing and “ready or not”, it’s a “right now” moment.  But, if it’s a good moment, it lasts a lifetime…

I talk about going there as a writer but the flip side is going there as an audience member.  I should have cried like I wanted to.  Laughing and crying are tied together and sometimes the emotions that cause one to laugh are the same that cause one to cry.  I hope I can get back to see “Yard Sale Signs” again.  I’ll sit in the back and just let the jewels of truth have their way with me… 

It’s all the special moments that make theater so exciting, so spellbinding…like when I saw “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf” by Ntozake Shange.  I had forgotten those moments until I saw the trailer for the movie “For Colored Girls” based on Shange’s play; the movie will open November 5th.  I tell you, I have to watch that trailer almost every day.  I had to re-read the play and that’s when I remembered…it was after seeing that play that I really began to search for my voice as a woman which has everything to do with my voice as a writer.  It was the first play I had ever seen at a real theater and there were brown girls just like me up on that stage but they were more than just brown girls, they were women talking about women’s things and feeling women’s feelings.  It is impossible to have a true world view without hearing from the women and the men…


for the girls who tell stories…/ and climb trees alongside their brothers, reaching the upper branches to look out on the world/ who dance in spite of the offbeat rhythms running through their lives/ who sing in the wrong key till they learn the notes were never theirs to sing any way/ for the girls who find their own song and their own way to sing it/ who create from wombs, from words, or from living/ having more than a little “somethin’ somethin’” to give/ for the girls who dare to have a say…

i say… thank you…/ i’m listening…


  • By jenniewebb, October 7, 2010 @ 11:09 am

    You make me very glad I wrote my play, my friend. Thank you for that.

  • By Robin Byrd, October 7, 2010 @ 12:02 pm

    I am very glad you wrote it. Thank you.

  • By Laura, October 15, 2010 @ 9:15 pm

    What a beautiful post.

  • By Linh Dandurand, October 21, 2010 @ 10:04 am

    Interesting article and one which should be more widely known about in my view. Your level of detail is good and the clarity of writing is excellent. I have bookmarked it for you so that others will be able to see what you have to say.

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