Many people talk about the theatre as a mirror- reflecting back at us our own lives and the world we live in. Many times we see a reflection that makes us laugh and fills us with warmth and frivolity and sometimes, maybe not as often as we should, we see a reflection that scares us a little. Like the mirror in a starkly lit motel bathroom, we see the pockmarks and lines in our face all too clearly.
My Children! My Africa! was a play that reflects those blemishes and challenges you to do something about them. The story concerns two brilliantly scholastic teenagers- one white, one black- who are trying to to reconcile their friendship with a simmering rebellion in apartheid South Africa. Trying to guide them through the tempest is their teacher, Mr. M, who believes so strongly in the power of education that he is willing to sacrifice everything for it.
I saw this play back in November and it was probably the play I’d been most involved with at Park Square. Sitting in on several rehearsals, I became invested in not just the script, but the artists bringing it to life. Their passion for the message was resounding and brought forth my own desires for social change. It was also when I started really blogging for the theatre and I took advantage of my voice. Definitely check those out here and know that this current blog is a reworking of one of those.
The a play about racial disparity in South Africa but it is far, far from just “another play about race.” I don’t want anybody to have preconceived notions about what they are walking into. Never is the play preachy or self-indulgent in it’s message. What it does is weave a tender story about friendship that happens to have these earth-shattering consequences involved. Trust me, as both a theatre artist and fellow patron, I understand the temptation to shrug your shoulders and say, “seen that story before” because humans tend to be fickle creatures and naturally seek fresh takes on messages, however timeless. My Children! My Africa! is brilliant because it engages you right from the start and before you know it, you’re so involved with the characters that the tragedy will truly take you by surprise.
And what is that tragedy? It’s the tragedy of not being able to understand another’s point of view – or to be able to effectively communicate it. It is the tragedy of somebody being told what to do and who to be without the outlet of being one’s own self. Walls and boxes are stifling by nature, no matter how benign their intentions.
I hope you got to see My Children! My Africa! back then and if not, please seek it out. You’ll find yourself asking some pretty hard questions but if you’re open to some tough truth, you’re going to understand that maybe some action, any action, is better than doing nothing.
Certainly there are some big ideas with this play but that’s precisely why Park Square chose to perform this play, to tell this story. Because it matters now more than ever, especially in light of everything that’s transpired since last November with race relations in this country. Yes, that stark motel bathroom mirror may be revealing some unwanted blemishes, but at least now we know they’re there and now we can do something about them.