Race to the finish?
"Post-Traumatic Slave Syndrome" is a thought-provoking theatrical examination of how racial culture got to be this way, and hopes for a way to reconsider race in the future.
By JOSHUA TANZER
(Originally reviewed at Henry Street Settlement in September 2001.)
A black woman and a white man take the stage first to discuss something called axiology, the study of human value systems. (It was new to me; it might be new to you too.) But lest this become a dry academic lecture, soon other actors are joining in the discussion, and before long the show is transformed into a mix of theater, music, dance, comedy and talk about race relations and the history of blacks and whites in America.
Actually, the lecturey part of the show is the most interesting part, illustrated with dramatic scenes and touching on how whites and blacks arrived at this point in history and culture. "I'm here to tell you," says the African-American tour guide (Audrey Amey), "that African-Americans behave differently. It's okay to know that."
|POST-TRAUMATIC SLAVE SYNDROME|
|Company: Fractured Atlas.|
Written by: Kamal Sinclair Steele and Universal Arts.
Directed by: Robbie McCauley.
Based on: the research of Dr. Joy DeGruy-Leary.
Cast: Audrey Amey, Felami Burgess, Dale Dymkoski, Rebecca Samara Gaev, Marc Goldhaber, Donald E. Jones II, Jill Kelley, Jason Raines, Kamal Sinclair Steele, Tunu Thom, Raphael Torn.
Related links: Official site
|Henry Street Settlement|
466 Grand Street near Pitt
Jan. 31 - Feb. 24, 2002
We proceed through a program designed to bring out two points. First, that the personhood of slaves was systematically broken as a part of doing business during the American slavery period. Second, that this breaking is transmitted from generation to generation, even now, resulting in a culture-wide condition resembling post-traumatic stress syndrome.
The ideas are based on the research of Dr. Joy DeGruy-Leary, a faculty member of the Portland State University Graduate School of Social Work. Her brief biography on the school's web site mentions her research into "multi-generational trauma of African-Americans," and this is, in fact, the central point of the piece that a diagnosis conceived to explain an individual psychological condition can be applied to an entire population and be passed on from generation to generation.
You can decide for yourself what to believe. Parts of "Post-Traumatic Slave Syndrome" are simplistic and generalized as they would have to be in one two-hour theater piece. And even if you agree with the play's argument, it's not clear whether it's actually useful to analyze African-American culture as a case of post-traumatic stress syndrome.
|The final question presented by the show in memorably visual fashion is not "Can't we all get along?" but rather, "Can we all fall in love with each other?"|| |
But it's great to see a show that's about ideas, in the way that books and school and talking over coffee and sometimes Oprah are about ideas, but one that also goes a long way toward making the ideas palpable through theater.
The final question presented by the show in memorably visual fashion is not "Can't we all get along?" but rather, "Can we all fall in love with each other?" This is no small issue in a country in which, although few people would call themselves racist, most white people's friends are white and most black people's friends are black. What would it take to turn back the clock so that the races meet again on a basis of love and togetherness and intermingling? If there's a way to continue that discussion, it would be a fulfillment of what this play stands for.
|SEPTEMBER 24, 2001|
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Reader comments on Post-Traumatic Slave Syndrome:
Tripe from BW, May 31, 2004
Re: Tripe from Liberal, but real, Jun 8, 2004
theatre from freda macon, Jul 14, 2005
Script from Actors Ink, Aug 11, 2006
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