Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Colored Museum

The Colored Museum by George C. Wolfe is a play that I've never seen live on stage, but I'm looking forward to the day I get to see a production of it. It features eleven vignettes that satirize/explore elements of African American culture, and was first produced in 1986. (The Colored Museum study guide, from Ball State University).

Though I've never seen a live production, the play was required reading for an African American lit class I took in undergrad. With vignettes such as "The Hairpiece," "Cookin' With Miss Ethel," "The Gospel According to Miss Roj," and "The Last-Mama-on-the-Couch Play," we studied it for both content and context as is related/related to current black issues at the time the play was written (and the time we were reading the play.) I enjoyed reading the play.

If you get a chance to read and/or see a live production, you should. Many college theatre groups do their own productions of The Colored Museum.

The play, along with the Percival Everett's novel Erasure, came to mind in the past few days, as my friends and I saw what's soon to become The Color Purple of this generation -- Precious. I loved the film, both in terms of production and content, and also feel it did the book Push justice. I was pleased.

Of course, the conversations I've had range from friends who are my go-out-for-drinks friends to the academic types at the university. The conversations vary -- from this is the BEST film ever... to the pathologizing of black people in films. I saw and see merits in all the conversations and all the views of the film. But I loved the film and hope it received many awards in the coming film awards season.

I also hope people will pick up the novel Push and read it. I also hope that people see it as a film based on a novel, that happens to be about one young, black woman's experience. I also hope it raises awareness of the experiences young people face, domestic and sexual violence, and all the other social needs facing all people today. Like any other film featuring black characters, I don't see it as THE black experience in the U.S. It's a film, based on a novel.

But as I hear more of my academic friends and colleagues share their thoughts with me, I'm drawn back to re-thinking about The Colored Museum, Erasure, and if anyone can win when they happen to write a book or produce a film featuring black characters. Or is this what being a critical thinker is all about... the ability to look at the good and the bad in everything?

1 comment:

V.D. said...

Nice post.

I think that whenever a Black film/play/tv show etc. is made, people have a tendency to act as if that one work represents the entire Black race. Of course that's not true. I believe that will change once we gain a stronger presence within the media. We need more than 1 or 2 movies released per year, more than 1 or 2 sitcoms, etc. Folks like Tyler Perry and Mara Brock Akil are great, but we need even more African-Americans in positions of power to greenlight diverse projects. We've made some progress, but we have a long way to go.

And I LOVE The Colored Museum. It takes a great deal of skill and intelligence to master the art of satire. Two other satires that I must've watched at least 50 times by now are Hollywood Shuffle and Bamboozled. Genius.

-Victoria D.