Riding the Red Eye…

Saturday, I took the Red Eye home to see my mother.  My sisters were not sure what was going on with her – one minute she was fine, the next she was disoriented and feverish.  I could hear nurses in the background, uneasiness in my sister’s voice and when I finally got to say hello to my mother she made absolutely no sense at all.  By the third call, I was looking online for a cheap flight – with all my almost points, that miraculously expire before I can use them, I was left to the mercy of Priceline and not much choice. So, I flew in for Mother’s Day, surprising my mother who was up and dressed – for a while.  By 6:30 pm we were on our way to the hospital where we stayed till about 2 am the next day when we put her in a room.  Getting Mother somewhat situated, thankful to the doctors and nurses at Methodist for connecting dots, ruling out, and genuinely caring, I was able to think about keeping the flight plan to return to LA.  Before my mother went to her room, she told me I looked like a “thug” with my scarf on my head, my leather jacket and the way I was standing, which made everyone laugh. To that she exclaimed she didn’t know I was so short.  More laughter.  She was “in” again.  She told me to come back later and stay longer.

I got to see nieces and nephews, all my sisters, the new baby and the green of Indiana.  Concrete filled Los Angeles seemed like a prison sentence and I was out on parole.  Air without exhaust fumes – who knew?  The speed limit is 55 mph on the highway, there are about four of them, a few overlap – 465 circles the city.  Go either way, you’ll get there eventually.  Not a lot of traffic – none if you compare it to the 405.

Spent the night (wee hours of the morning till my flight back to LA on Monday) talking with one of my sisters; got to see her new grandson.  Got to have some White Castle burgers, wish I had gotten to go to the (farmers) Market.  Sleep deprived, I drove off into the sunlight, promptly missed my exits had to turnaround three times, turned into incoming traffic, had to drive over the center divider because I couldn’t back up.  A miracle, I got to the airport on time and safe.

The whole three days of travel, I kept getting “that would make a good play” thoughts in response to something I saw or heard.  I had a chore staying present to visit with family while waiting on results of tests for my mother.  But, I’m a writer so I am aware of story even when I am preoccupied.  Story can be triggered by anything – the visual, sounds, emotions…

My mother always asks me what I am working on.  She gets real excited when I say I am researching things.  She has every confidence in my gift.  My regret is that she wasn’t well enough and there wasn’t enough “in” time for me to read her some poetry.

I found story on my journey, none of which will pass the “b” test but if I, as playwright – because I am female, am not only limited by the male dominated theater-world but also by the female constituency because of the content of my work, who gains?  Art should not be held under dictatorship.  I have a distinct voice and my stories are universal in scope.  I am a playwright, I am of color and I am a woman and I tell damn good stories.  I face racism daily – in America – and must shake it off like sand continually.  Truth be told, when I send out my work, I don’t think I may not get picked because I am a female, I think “I hope they don’t ask for a picture then they will know I am of color”.  I have to decide whether or not to send a play that would be considered too ethnic.  I have to say on conference submissions whether or not the characters have to be played by ethnic actors which in some cases can limit or put one out of the running altogether.  I count yellow/brown/red faces on theater company rosters to see if my work will even be looked at in the first place.  I had an actress read a page from one of my works who was shocked when I told her I wrote it for a blond-haired blue-eyed woman, just like her.  She liked the universal story but had assumed the character was written as a woman of color because I am a woman of color.

I want to tell my stories as I find them, how I hear and see them and be able to take them straight through to the next level based on their substance and craft, not my lack of a dick and my failing of the “b” test no matter how many times I take it.

As a habit, I write through the night, so in a sense, I am always riding the Red Eye…

4 Comments

  • By Nancy Beverly, May 15, 2013 @ 7:53 am

    Thanks for the “bird’s eye view,” Ms. Byrd, of your flight and trip — and we share something else in common — not just working at UCLA but having roots in Indianapolis (my hometown)!

  • By Robin Byrd, May 15, 2013 @ 10:23 am

    LOL, Nancy. So, you know I left it vague as to the town just to see who would know. What’s the probability?

  • By Laura S, May 15, 2013 @ 3:42 pm

    A powerful post, Robin!

  • By Robin Byrd, May 15, 2013 @ 5:51 pm

    Thanks, Laura.

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