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It’s an interesting moment to see Inda Craig-Galván’s A Hit Dog Will Holler now getting its Philly premiere at Azuka Theatre. Twitter is imploding after its purchase by an increasingly right-wing technocrat billionaire, and the 2022 midterm general election count is happening this week among a backlash against critical race theory and the progress of movements like Black Lives Matter. All this only makes it more clear how important Black women activists have been and will continue to be in our collective fight for liberation.
A Hit Dog Will Holler examines the racial PTSD of being a Black woman activist in America. The play takes place in February 2020: Covid-19 has arrived and left people in a state of uncertainty and fear, police continue to murder Black folks, and Twitter has become an important organizing tool for activists in the Trump era.
Boots on the ground?
This two-character play happens entirely in the living room of Gina (the charming and captivating Jessica Johnson). Gina is a social-media influencer, podcaster, activist, and self-proclaimed “political-slash-cultural-slash-activistic web strategist.” She made a name for herself on the Internet and she uses that social clout to pay her bills, making enough money to have round-the-clock food delivery.
Gina seems to be living her best life—until we discover the mental and emotional strain she is under. She suffers from self-diagnosed “acute social agoraphobia,” which prevents her from physically being at the protests she is helping organize, despite her carefully photoshopped images.
In contrast, guerilla arts activist Dru (the spunky and hilarious Adaeze Nwoko), who makes no money from their work, supports themselves by delivering food, and is tough as nails. The play explores the differences between Gina and Dru with a somewhat contrived device that closets them together. After they share an experience, I wanted them to grow more in empathy for one another, but the lack of easy answers rings true in real life.
Relatable and refreshing
At first, I wanted to judge Gina because she takes pride in the financial profits of her activism work, and has lied for years about being a “boots on the ground” organizer. But as the play went on, I found her experience to be more and more relatable.
As someone who has done most of her activism from behind a screen—whether through a data science and tech lens, or the lens of a funder—I’ve questioned the legitimacy of my own activism. I struggle with going to protests physically since a counter-protestor pushed me at one event; and during the height of anti-Asian hate during the pandemic, I had racial slurs or racist comments slung at me about once a week.
This play deals uniquely with the racial PTSD that Black women face existing in America, and the excessive burden of resiliency. Playwright Craig-Galván illuminates the pressures of capitalism and social media on Black activists: the demand to constantly reveal their own trauma, and the inability to take a rest from creating content, for fear of becoming outdated or irrelevant. Mental health within BIPOC communities is rarely addressed directly, and I found it refreshing to see it onstage.
A worthy ticket
Ang(ela) Bey’s costumes cleverly express the passage of time through the change of Gina’s hair from a wig, to a bonnet, to twists. Sound designers Larry D. Fowler Jr. and Adiah D. Hicks, alongside projection designer Damien Figueras, do a great job of expressing the debilitating sensations that Gina faces when she attempts to go outside. Director Reva Stover’s in-the-round staging makes the audience feel like they’re stuck in the house with Gina and Dru.
This production is a worthwhile ticket for everyone, but especially Black women and other people of color.
What, When, Where
A Hit Dog Will Holler. By Inda Craig-Galván, directed by Reva Stover. Through November 20, 2022, at the Louis Bluver Theatre at the Drake, 341 S. Hicks Street, Philadelphia. (215) 563-1100 or azukatheatre.org.
Masks and proof of vaccination are required in the theater.
The Louis Bluver Theatre at the Drake is a wheelchair-accessible venue with gender-neutral restrooms. This production contains sudden loud noises, flashing lights, and brief smoking.
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