feedbackby Jeannie Barroga on 05/01/11
Easter weekend at Bayanihan, SF was the April 2011 workshop showing the latest development in movement for BUFFALO’ED by Alleluia with dancers Greg Manalo, Alexandria Diaz De Fato, and Raissa Simpson. The table reading assembled by Norman Gee* included Norman and these actors: Thandiwe Thomas de Shazor, Ekow Daniels, Tony Williams, David Arrow*, Dawn Troupe*, Josemari Saenz, Rinabeth Apostol*, and Brian Rivera*. Director Anthony J. Haney* attended from Los Angeles. Details for the upcoming June auditions TBA along with the full 2011-2012 schedule including World Premiere rehearsal and production dates.
(“…who, what…the why eludes me…” – quote from Myth/Fagen in BUFFALO’ED)
As a writer, the answers to the basic questions must be answered either immediately, or delayed, but answered, and not even fully, if we want to challenge audiences. I wrote the details above, but it doesn’t capture the verve and enthusiasm that weekend for the work we all saw being revealed before us.
For example, high points were discovering that Luisa has become more of a major mover of events, an Artful Dodger, like a chess match between herself and the Captain (only later named 'Robert'). And in the next scene with him, the positions change: he is a well-matched foe after all, and the play teeters on its fulcrum for their story. And their final scene...well, come see it.
So, why: why have development a year out (we open in April 2012). Hmm. I started writing this play in 2007; it had been inspired by yet another hidden footnote years earlier: African-American Buffalo Soldiers were in the Philippines starting in 1899. 1,700 remained after that skirmish. A sizeable mixed community resulted since that occupation and from subsequent U.S. occupations since then. How can I sharpen a focus on a such a short-lived moment in history and hold a mirror to it and a modern situation, an eyeball to eyeball point of view: recently 'freed' men now battling foreign resisters but on their own turf?
The director, Tony, and I had 5 hours of notes, page by page, deep questions and long answers. Finally, since 2007, I have the sounding board that was vital to me, as a writer, to cut to the bone, draw emotional blood, feel what resonated in me that the compulsion to write such a story drove my current life. Back in the late 1980s, my epiphany in delving into WALLS was that the young Maya was being compromised in her art, just as I was in mine, outside forces dictating what our art should look like and represent and be the banner for (what I termed) the "whole Indian nation." One artist can't speak for a whole culture; she can only speak for herself. If any message through art resonates with the artist first, only then could it have an inkling of a chance to resonate with ALL.
And so that was the big discovery after the workshop about Luisa (as presented to me by Tony): she, too, teeters on a fulcrum between her class and another, that her 'elevated' position to General attracted followers. She had the 'language' to speak about and for the other class she aspired to, overtly or covertly. Without that position, would she have a Voice others would listen to? What are her real outside forces; what are mine?
For quite awhile, I believed the ultimate question in the play would be: what could Fagen and Della say to each other, or Della and Luisa? More recently, it changed to: what needs to be said between Linc and Woodruff? Now, it's: what am I SAYING about Luisa and Della, what mirrors them to me? "The Why eludes me..." but I'm getting close. Very close.