Words from GLO 2015 Playwright: Katherine James

GLO (Green Light One-Acts), featuring 5 new plays by local women, runs at The Miles Memorial Playhouse November 5-15th. For more information and tickets please visit: www.greenlightproductions.org.

 

The Plan by Katherine James

Katherine James

Katherine James

The characters in my play The Plan are young women I have met in every decade of the six decades of my life. Young women who put their hopes and dreams aside for the hopes and dreams that others have for them.

This would be sad enough.

What is truly amazing to me is that the hopes and dreams that supersede their own have been the same two over 60+ years: marriage and working for the family business.

It didn’t strike me hard until my older son (who is now 36) was 18 and I met yet another “Anna” who was his contemporary. Anna is the character whose parents have come from another country to the United States to make a better life for themselves and their children. Their success here depends on this child giving her life to the family business with the promise of her own child some day being allowed to have the right to her own hopes and dreams. The “Anna” who was the contemporary of my son’s had not been able to take the S.A.T.’s because her family made sure she was working in the family restaurant that day. As they did every day. I looked back and realized I had met that same girl again and again from the time I was little. I have continued to meet her since, the latest “Anna” a brilliant actress whose parents didn’t want her to get an MFA. They needed her to run the family business and to translate for them.

Will I ever stop meeting “Kiki”? The girl whose family wants her to marry the nice guy and put her hopes and dreams on hold while she helps him achieve his? I hope so. But so far so bad.

What I hope The Plan does is to wake us all up to the fact that our young women with hopes and dreams need to be mentored by those of us who have realized our hopes and dreams. The most soul searching part of the play for me is when the audience realizes that these girls had mentors. Mentors who didn’t follow up with them.

Some women who have read The Plan don’t believe that family pressure to abandon hopes and dreams still exists. They think that when The Feminist Movement of the 20th Century “was no longer needed” it was largely because girls like Anna and Kiki no longer existed. Of course I would say they were wrong on both counts – Feminism is still needed and in large part because Anna and Kiki still are struggling.

I say about today’s Annas and Kikis, “They are our girls.” Let’s give them the encouragement that their families might not be able to. Let’s help them reach their “American Dream”.

 

(Article written by the playwright:  Katherine James.  Article also (posted/to be posted) at “Lightbulbs” on the Green Light Productions website www.greenlightproductions.org.)

2 Comments

  • By Juanita Rice, October 19, 2015 @ 8:26 am

    Katherine: I fully understand how sad it is to see girls deflected from the kind of freedom you and I have had, but on the other hand (to play angel’s advocate?) have you ever read “The Have-Little” by Migdalia Cruz? Its situation is not quite comparable, but it suggests that if you or I were in that “under-class” (i.e., poor, struggling, desperate), we would view the individualism even of feminists as a desertion. I work with teen-age girls (volunteer) in detention nearby and I understand that what I most want to tell them is that to change their lives they have to abandon their families and friends completely. They have to become selfish. I don’t tell them this straight-out. The message really is stark: if you want to succeed, you must cut your emotional ties to your families and friends IF you are in the ‘under-class.’ Is that really what we want to say to anyone? I agree: teaching at Sacramento State University was completely different than teaching at ACT. At ACT students were already self-oriented, and many were from semi-professional backgrounds since if you are in a ghetto of any kind it may not even occur to you that you could “be in the theatre.” At Sac State I had to watch young women AND men whose backgrounds had already encumbered them. (It’s hard to believe you’ve had 6 decades!!! You seem so young to me and I only have 7!)

  • By Katherine James, October 19, 2015 @ 8:07 pm

    Juanita: First, I have to say “thank you for your service”. What an inspiration you are to share your time, experience, life and gifts with these young women. Second, I have to read “The Have-Little” ASAP since you recommend it. Third – I purposefully have created characters in my play who are not “exceptional” in any way. That is they are not too poor, not too unloved, not too “at risk”. I wanted them to be girls who didn’t have enough support at home to be all they could be…and…who didn’t have the “star” quality to make them “make it’ on their own. I must say that I am the first to recognize that without my own parents love and encouragement and support of my hopes and dreams I don’t know how far I would have gotten in life. I never was one of the girls who could have “done it” all on my own. I have met those women in my life – those exceptional women who beat all odds and soar. What I am looking at in this play is the great unwashed – I consider myself one of them – who need someone in their corner. Without that support, they will not make it. I should say, we won’t make it. We are not the stories that make the “overcoming all odds” stories of success. We “get my with a little help from our friends”. Clearly, friends like you!

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