Erica Philpot: Post-Show Blog for Am I Black Enough Yet?
I’m currently a sophomore theatre performance major here at UMD, and I didn’t hear about Am I Black Enough Yet? until last semester when I learned that the theatre department was doing the show. I wanted to learn more about it because it sounded interesting — but more so, after reading the script, I knew I wanted to audition for it, because it addressed many questions I’ve had in my own life.
The script addressed many questions I’ve had in my own life.
I loved the light, yet meaningful approach that the playwright, Clinton A. Johnston, took on the show. The show, to me, was about this examination of “blackness” that the actors in the show displayed in various scenes, while taking the audience on a journey addressing an overarching theme of what really black is.
Am I Black Enough Yet? was not your ordinary theatre show. This show broke all rules and spoke right with the audience. I had the amazing opportunity to be a part of such a journey for all eight of the performances, which varied each night. There were eight actors in the show, and we were each “members” in this sketch comedy breaking down stereotypes for the audience, as well as addressing issues that many people of any race or ethnicity, gender, sexuality, nationality and occupation may experience.
This show broke all rules and spoke right with the audience.
I think my favorite section of the show was when we got to turn the audience “black.” In the opening scene, we informed the audience that for the duration of the performance, those who entered the theatre who were not black, became black, and those were already black, became über black. This exact moment changed every night with different reactions from our audience members, but at the end of the show, we really became “one people,” which became one of my favorite quotes from the show: “We are One People."
By turning the audience black for the duration of the performance, we were able to explore touchy subjects that people sometimes brush aside to avoid being uncomfortable, but as we sprung upon the answers to some questions, we learned more about ourselves as individuals as well.
My favorite section of the show was when we got to turn the audience “black.”
Before stepping onstage, the cast did some intensive research on the characters as well as what our director, Scot Reese, calls “Actor Prep.” Within the “Actor Prep,” and “Character Sketches,” there is always an action, tactic, motivation, and activity for each character, and in order to fully transform into that character, we all had to consider things from every angle.
Throughout the course of the performance, I played a variety of characters ranging from my own self, to a waitress, to someone who tells jokes, to someone who was betrayed by her boyfriend. My research came from visual aids such as pictures of influential actors who have inspired me in some way, and from watching re-runs of shows like Saturday Night Live, The Cosby Show, In Living Color, and Martin.
I still may walk away from the show with questions, but at least I know I’m not alone.
What I enjoyed the most about this show was being able to grasp the audiences’ attention and get them thinking about the real message behind each scene. We knew that each audience would react differently to what we had to say, but I think that’s truly the beauty of acting. I call this show an “experience” more than anything, because at the end of the day, I still may walk away with questions, but at least I know I’m not alone.
My goal was to have fun with the audience — and though the material may have been hard to take for some people, I didn’t expect anyone to go through any intense life changes — I simply wanted them to be able to walk away and think about it. If people continue these discussions within their classes, within their friends, and within their families — then I know our mission of getting the message across to them has been accomplished.