Friday, October 30, 2009

The Colored Museum - by George C. Wolfe

Premiered in 1986, The Colored Museum is a series of pieces, monologues and scenes, that present a multiplicity of African-American experience, stereotypes and conflicts. Most have an element of direct address, involving the audience in the action and the character on stage.

The container for the pieces is a museum, each "exhibit" following after the next. The first exhibit is an airline stewardess welcoming us onto the flight, the middle passage. The audience is invited to put on their shackles and instructed that there will be 'no drumming.' A time slip occurs and we're plunged into a swirling recounting of moments in history, nearly overwhelmed, but still arrive, welcome to our destination. This is punctuated by a final image of two male slaves and a woman slave being welcomed with the canned pleasantness of the stewardess.

Ten more scenes follow, each vastly different than the last and accumulating meaning as they build on one another. The final scene breaks loose characters from previous scenes and they join Topsy Washington when she says,
So, hunny, don't waste your time trying to label or define me. ... 'cause I'm not what I was ten years ago or ten minutes ago. I'm all of that and then some. And whereas I can't live inside yesterday's pain, I can't live without it.
(Topsy Washington and cast, 'The Party')

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