A more perfect union: Soul Rep and Cara Mia Theatres present ‘My Red Hand, My Black Hand’
By Cristee Cook
The regional premiere of My Red Hand, My Black Hand by Dael Orlandersmith opens the revived Café Negro Series, a collaboration between Soul Rep Theatre and Cara Mia Theatre. The audio play tells the story of a young woman who unravels the past and hopes for the future as she describes her mixed heritage. Her father is Tlingit and Lakota, and her mother is Black.
In the story, the young woman’s father has left the reservation to play the blues in Boston. Her black, rural Virginia mother goes to Boston in search of the big-city life. Her parents meet at a dance hall and fall in love, but the prejudices of their family complicate her parent’s soulful connection.
This audio play, deftly realized by Director Guinea Bennett-Price, asks us to use our senses in a new way. The mix of original music by Fredrick Sanders, and the vocal performances of the cast, offer a rich and layered soundscape. This isn’t a play you can listen to casually. You’ll need to tuck in, close your eyes, and let the sound take you on a journey. Allow yourself to be transported to another time and place.
The poetic tone of the piece is solidified by the voices of N’Dambi, a rising star of the Dallas stage, J Davis-Jones, and Alaskan based Indigenous actor, Allan Hayton. The strong ensemble of voices are backlit by the layered sound from Sanders, and I felt like I was right there in the living room, the dance hall, and the blues club.
As the young woman explores her parents’ story, and her own identity, echoing thoughts of internalized racism from both sides of the family are haunting and dangerous, and I found the balance of fear and hope in the story exhilarating. With the combination of music and rhythmic speech, I felt the passion of her parents, and the sorrow of separation that comes from rigid beliefs. Bennett-Price’s direction creates a soulful experience for the listener.
Orlandersmith’s story is urgent, of course, as America confronts its own racist roots. As we look to the future for a greater hope, will we, as the young woman in this story seeks to do, reconcile our own mixed heritage with acceptance and forgiveness? As racist values and division surge in 2020 America, how do we create something new and innocent? Is it possible to embrace an imperfect, passionate union within ourselves and for each other?
My Red Hand, My Black Hand by Dael Orlandersmith is available as an audio play through November 8, 2020. Tickets to stream the audio play are available at www.caramiatheatre.org and www.soulrep.org. A series of Community Action Conversations will be curated
to accompany the run of the play. Please visit both websites for more information.