Within the last month and within a week of each other were two important events for Black women: Black Women’s Equal Pay Day (August 22) and Black Breastfeeding Week (August 25-31). These were not holidays; they were days of reckoning.
In 2019, 400 years after the first enslaved Black women were brought to this country, what does it mean for Black women to have to still grapple with both the under-valuing and compensation of their labor, as well as the disparities in their maternal health and welfare? And what of the constant policing and scrutiny of their bodies? Their hair? Their every life decision?
These are precisely the kinds of questions Emily Gilbert and Tasha Henderson sought to tackle in Complex[ion] Woman. Set in 2016, the play recreates snapshots of the everyday encounters and experiences of women of color. Using humor, drama, shock-value, and more, the piece implores the audience to ponder what it would do if placed in these women’s shoes. Winner of the 2016 Hollywood Fringe Award, Complex[ion] Woman is like a State of the Union for Black and brown womanhood with the cast and crew, also primarily women of color, as narrators of stories not too foreign from their own.
At its best, good art challenges us to consider life’s tough questions. In “Letters to a Young Poet,” Rainer Maria Wilke instructs us to “live the questions now.” Complex[ion] Woman does exactly that by making space for the existential contemplation of women of color. The holding space for the questions may one day lead to the arrival of different and better outcomes and answers.
What, When, Where:
RunBoyRun Productions presents Complex[ion] Woman showing at the Plays & Players Theatre, 1715 Delancey Street, from September 13-15. Visit FringeArts online for tickets and showtimes.