On January 20, Professor Tina Post and dramaturg Gabrielle Randle-Bent discussed the play’s one Black female character, the Woman, the significance of her presence, and how her character has been approached through a lens of movement and choreography. Here are 6 takeaways from their conversation.
She is a non-speaking character but is present for important moments and has a controlling stake in propelling the play forward.
She is scripted to appear in the Prologue, Epilogue, and near the end of Act 1 to perform scripted action. However, dramaturgs have the liberty of placing her elsewhere as well as a silent presence overlooking everything. She can appear both in flesh and a spirit haunting the action.
The hyena is a motif in every iteration of the Woman’s scripted appearance. When she appears, so does a hyena, calling back to the story of Modingo and why the hyenas have bitter laughter as told in the play.
Her corporeal presence is not clear. She can be interpreted as a projection of Tshembe’s mind, but even if staged as a haunting presence, she still retains her power and is perhaps even more powerful. She has symbolic power, but the nature of that power remains to be interpreted. She is an ancestral force and spirit, but there’s also a sense of futurity to her demands.
5. Who is the Woman?
Is she Tshembe’s mother, a future mixed-race daughter of Tshembe? There is no scripted sense of her embodiment other than she appears. Is she tangible rather than an all-seeing projection, an idea, and a person? She is as much an ancestral potentiality as a future one, someone who has already been or yet to be or both at once. There is no singularity, for where there is one, there is many. Her presence as a haunting emulates the haunting of the author with this text as we don’t know the extent of who wrote what and in what way, Lorraine Hansberry or Robert Nemiroff.
6. Claims and Visuality
The Woman makes a claim on Tshembe even after his time away in Europe and he responds. Her embodiment perhaps suggests there is space for her to be however she wants to be on her own terms.
Interested in learning more about the Woman and viewing an original interpretative dance piece representing her character? Tune into our next session!