Sunday, March 14, 2010

"Mirrors in Every Corner": Talkin' 'Bout My Generation

San Francisco folks: You have one week left to see Mirrors in Every Corner at Intersection for the Arts, and I strongly recommend that you do. Let me put it this way: it is the best play I have ever seen by someone of my generation (people born in the mid-1980s)--the play that made me realize that my generation is going to make some awesome theater in the coming years, and we've only just started to have our voices heard.

Mirrors in Every Corner was written by 25-year-old Chinaka Hodge, a poet and playwright from Oakland. It tells the story of what happens when a white girl (strawberry blonde, green-eyed) is mysteriously born into an African-American family that's already got problems of its own. So it's deeply, deeply about racial identity and cultural identity. The cleverness of the idea didn't even hit me till after the show, when I remembered learning in college about an archetype in American literature called the "tragic mulatta." A mixed-race woman who can "pass" for white, she meets a sad end, because she is caught between the black and white social spheres with no place for her in either one. Hodge's brilliance is to update this to a modern context by making it a magical-realist fable (white child born into black family) rather than a literal-minded exploration of the trope (mixed-race girl is mixed-up). In the old "tragic mulatta" works, usually the heroine falls in love with a white man, but cannot be with him because she is black. In Hodge's play, the heroine gets crushes on the black boys at school, but her brother tells her that this is dangerous and she should try to date white boys instead, because society still has a problem seeing black men together with white women! A brilliant twist. And obviously my hat goes off to anybody who can write about race in such a bold and perceptive way while still so young--especially because it still scares me to think about writing about race.

But Mirrors in Every Corner is also an exploration of social history--my generation's social history, from Iran-Contra to the Iraq War. And it is just wonderful to see this onstage, and realize that my peers and I are adults now, and we've lived through some interesting stuff, and we have stories to tell, and we're going to be telling them, more and more, in this new decade of ours! This is smart, fresh, truly inspiring theater. (And I haven't even gone into Chinaka Hodge's use of language and structure and the other more "crafty" elements of playwriting, but trust me, it's all at a very high level.) Get your tickets now!

photo of the cast by Pak Han

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