Hey y’all I’m feeling extra southern today. It’s probably because I got a little taste of Memphis culture over the weekend. I went to see the stage play Mrs. Independent to celebrate my sister’s birthday. The play was great. It was full of soulful singing, excellent comedic timing and truly touching moments. But as usual, I spent more time taking note of various things and living in my own thoughts than I did actually paying attention to the play.
It was held at the Cannon Center, and the house was packed. I couldn’t help thinking that African-American performers have come a long way from the Chitlin’ Circuit of years past. If you’re not familiar with the term Chitlin’ Circuit, allow me to give you a little history lesson. Back in the day, during the Jim Crow era, there were limited venues that would host an African-American stage play. So when a black production decided to take their show on the road, they were forced to perform in juke joints and other places like them. These were the safe places where African-Americans could gather for entertainment, without having to deal with the racism prevalent during that time.
Perhaps as a nod to their ancestors, many African-American playwrights continue to use the term Chitlin’ Circuit to describe their production tours. The tradition continues today by choice, not force. To see the day, less than 60 years later, that an African-American cast performed at a sold out reputable arena warmed my heart. A lot has changed.
However, some things will always remain the same. I got my entire fill of people watching. I saw pimps replete in fedora hats and pinkie rings, hot mamas in five-inch heels and skin-tight skirts, one couple straight out of Dukes and Hazards and a disco queen. I kid you not. She was decked out in silver sequined stretch pants and rocking a Farrah Fawcett do. Just to be clear, I’m describing the guests not the actors.
Here’s what I took with me; creativity unites people. I watched as the actors fed off of the audience’s energy and vice versa. The detached mildly annoyed usher at the start of the show was transformed into a grinning engaged man by intermission. The awkward young couple on the front row, obviously on a first date, became comfortably affectionate by the end of the touchingly poignant closing scene. A writer with a chronic obsession for observing others was delightfully pleased when she glimpsed one of the actresses taking in the rapt faces of the audience during a few moments when she didn’t have any lines. Robin Given’s face lit up with joy and her eyes sparkled with elation.
I thought to myself THAT is what doing what you love to do, what you were born to do, looks like. City after city, show after show, repeating the same scenes night after night. The continuous rehearsals, being on the road for weeks and so many other sacrifices I have no clue about. But still I could see that those actors lived for the opportunity to do what they loved to do. They derived a certain satisfaction from helping others to suspend reality for a few moments. To help them forget about the stress from work, or the constant responsibility of parenting, or the overwhelming anxiety about their future. To help them remember that dreams are not disposable, that love still prevails and that laughter is medicine to the soul.
If you haven’t found the thing that makes you light up, keep looking. Don’t stop until you find it and once you do, never give up. Remember, the world is waiting.
Do you people watch obsessively? Have you ever been rewarded by glimpsing an endearing moment of authenticity? What’s the thing you love to do that puts a sparkle in your eye? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!