On Saturday September 12th, 2009, I went to see my friend JoAnna Rhinehart in The Julliard School Drama Division’s “Hurt Village” by award winning playwright and performer Katori Hall and directed by Lucie Tiberghien as part of their 2009 Playwrights Festival - A Fourth Year Performance Workshop.
Let me start by saying that the actors were brilliant, amazing, and inspiring. The cast of 3rd and 4th year students and guest artist JoAnna Rhinehart includes: Samira Wiley, Shalita Grant, Charlie Barnett, Chris Myers, Shayna Nicole Small, Tyrien Obahnjoko, Corey Antonio Hawkins, and Aaron Clifton Moten, You must go see these actors work, so you can be reminded what it is like to be passionate, committed and hungry to tell stories. They bit their teeth into “Hurt Village" and captured truth and nuance in their portrayals. I hope this artistic fire carries them a long way into their careers.
“Hurt Village" is a painful story about a generational family in Memphis. The first act is electric and alive with rhythm, poetry, nigga this – nigga that, profanity, drug dealin’, bitchin’, every shame and ill of the African American in da hood community. You name it; Ms. Hall weaves it in brilliantly. “Hurt Village” is gutsy. It’s unapologetic. I was disturbed. I wasn’t sure I wanted to go on. Luckily, I sat next to a white woman about my age that was eager to discuss with me why we need to drag our dirty laundry out and discuss race openly. What is the point of theatre? Why is this story so painful?
By the time I got to Act II, I was bawling beyond control. I was in pain. I was sad: for the black man who wants to do for his family and just can’t, for the families striving to get out of some war torn ghetto and ain’t nobody cutting them a break, for the mother whose child has grown past her and all she knows to do is to beat and curse her only ticket out of poverty. I cried because I felt hopeless. I understood better, but I felt defeated that only one of nine makes it outside the war zone. The one didn’t encourage me. I was sad for my brown-skinned daughters and myself who have to work that much harder to walk taller, straighter, heads held high, proud, and to know we are beautiful - Like no doubt.
Go see “Hurt Village”. The last performance is Sunday, the 13th at 1pm at Julliard. You have to RSVP. A regional theatre will produce “Hurt Village” for sure. Go see it. I want to hear what you think. I want to have a conversation about the images and truths that Ms. Hall paints.
Sandra A. Daley is a life and career coach, working with actors. If you have questions or comments about “Hurt Village” contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her at http://www.sandradaley.com. If you liked this article, you might also enjoy “Get Out There”
Martin Luther King said America had given a bad check to black people. Andrew Young