Sunday, February 28, 2016

The Convert-Closing thoughts

Today is special. It is the last performance of 'The Convert' by Danai Gurira at Central Square Theater.

This has been an amazing journey, an eye opening process and in my feelings of deep gratitude, I can only try to articulate my sentiments.

The character I played 'Jekesai/Ester' is a young woman who converts to Christianity to Escape an arranged marriage. She finds her faith and holds on tight to this new spirituality, and to her mentor. She finds herself, and gains a great deal of knowledge in a short time, and then finds herself again.

Many times she is asked "Who are you, Jekesai?... You must remember who it is you are".

This play comes to me at a time when I am still coming into and developing my own womanhood. Expanding my own understanding of self and deepening my own faith, my Buddhist practice.

I am always intrigued and often disappointed at the way our society treats young women, the unfair practices around the world that keep the female gender at a disadvantage. So, it has been a true honor to embody this character every night - to give her life meaning, to explore the intricacies of growing up as a young African woman in a world where we are so often taught that our voices do not matter. I tip many hats to Danai Gurira for writing this play and giving many black female actresses an opportunity to explore a character that we never see in the theatre world.

My father is Nigerian, my mother African American. The idea of identity and navigating what that means has always been confusing to me. Who are you? Where are you from? Your native tongue?

With this play I feel like I've been able to tap into an 'Adobuere' that I had not yet known. I've never stepped foot on African soil but after two months of working on this play - I do feel closer to the continent somehow. To a history, a language, a people that I knew nothing about.

James Baldwin wrote, "The purpose of art is to lay bare the questions which have been hidden by the answers".

How often do we ask ourselves the big questions? How often do we evaluate, and re evaluate and share our true selves with others? How deeply do we know ourselves at all? And, beyond that how deeply do we know the people that we share faith with, that we share our lives with? It is one thing to know a religion, to practice it but how does it serve your life? How does it expand your humanity/humanism?

Theatre allows us to lay it bare, construct, and deconstruct. We push forward and stumble through to create a piece based upon the answers we find. Are those the FINAL answers? I don't believe so. I have discovered so much about my character and the workings of this play every performance since Jan 28th. So, how can we assume that we have direct answers for life's questions when things are so often changing.

I am beyond grateful for this process - the questions, the answers...
I can only hope that I have the opportunity to participate in this kind of work for the rest of my acting career - work that challenges me and that helps me to grow. And to work with such a phenomenal group of people. I can't say enough.

Thanks for reading.
Peace till next time,

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