Bill Posley’s new one-man play, The Day I Became Black, deals with racial identity and racism in America. However, the heart of his message lies in radical empathy. Posley wants us to be able to look at each other with understanding-sometimes literally as he asks the audience to find someone who doesn’t look like themselves and stare at that person. The central premise of the show is the day Posley realized the world saw him as black. What he wants everyone to know is that he isn’t a special case- the world decides who you are for you.
As a child, Bill Posley thought of himself as both white and black. However, he was told repeatedly that his biracial identity was invalid, such as when his teacher told him he couldn’t check both the “black” and “white” bubbles for race on a standardized test; he had to fill in just the black one.
Posley, who currently writes for CBS sitcom The Neighborhood, is a multifaceted performer with a gift for delivering serious messages wrapped in comedy. He tackles his quest to understand his own identity in his new one-man play, The Day I Became Black. When you’re biracial, he says, “you find yourself battling to maintain an identity that makes sense to you but the world is kind of forcing their identity on you.”
We spoke to him about his new play, his writing process, and how radical empathy can change the world.
Copyright © James Hale
All Rights Reserved
note: Space is of critical importance in this play. space between the characters, between the beats, even between the lines. All intimate spaces, whether physical or regarding delivery, should be taken as close to discomfort as possible without reaching it. Conversely, let there be an almost uncomfortably large space between beats, both in an immensity of physical distance between the characters, and in length. it is allowable for the play to speed up noticeably towards the end, if desired.
[The holding cell at a federal prison. A metal table, a couple metal chairs. Bare walls, bare floor, a single window overlooking the yard, presumably. A heavy, swinging door opens and PETER enters, getting his shackles removed by an unseen guard at the threshold before the door closes loudly behind him. PETER is in his mid-30s, handsome, with eyes that used to smile.]
[PAUL enters, 40s, a man of faith haunted by doubt, wearing a clergyman’s collar. The door again clanges, both opening and closing. Keys are heard, bell-like, locking them in.]
Well. Continue reading
Copyright © 2017 By Marc Aronoff
The Lantern Bearers is a spirited, somewhat nonlinear dialectic between a man and woman that resemble the first two people on earth. During the course of the one-act, HE and SHE enact numerous little scenes, embracing several characters, as a way of exploring their identity and expressing a daily routine. Their playful banter touches upon the existential implications of being on Earth, why we are here, fear of death, control issues, and a joy for life—all wrapped in the inevitable quandary of playing games as a way being in the world. Themes of bearing our inner light with dignity and of how we hide our light from world when feeling overwhelmed and stressed run through as undercurrent in the “poetic” drama.
The work draws inspiration from an essay written by Robert Louis Stevenson of the same title.
As the scene opens it is late morning.
The stage hints of a forest and Garden (a few trees, stumps, rocks, leaves, dirt)… SHE, a uniquely attractive young woman, wearing a summer dress, speaks directly to the audience while HE, an older, athletic fellow, wearing a tee-shirt, and jeans, sits, brooding. SHE stands nearby.
based on “Proof of the Pudding,”
a short story by O. HENRY
PUBLIC DOMAIN: “Proof of the Pudding,” which was included in O. Henry’s 1910 short story collection, “Strictly Business,” is in the public domain.
JUNEY, a college-aged female
GEORGIA, Juney’s mom, divorced, early fifties
CATHY, Georgia’s sister-in-law and neighbor, late forties
DAVIS, Cathy’s husband, late forties
Present day, afternoon.
A middle-class family in a suburban neighborhood in Kentucky. A front door opens from the wings stage left into a kitchen. Center stage, a kitchen table with four chairs. Stage left, a “kitchen island.” Upstage right, a modest Christmas tree with lights lit.
Note: The use of a working “kitchen island” with built-in stovetop can be implied by a cabinet, no electricity to this cabinet is necessary. A real, pre-cooked packaged spiral ham, such as Kentucky Legend, is needed as a prop.
Play begins when JUNEY and GEORGIA return home from Sunday church service.
JUNEY and GEORGIA are carrying plastic bags of groceries looped around their wrists into the kitchen. JUNEY holds a pamphlet that had been wedged inside the screen door.
based on “The Harbinger,”
a short story by O HENRY
© 2017 Roy Proctor
Inquiries regarding performance rights for “The Dollar Bill” should be addressed to the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.
PUBLIC DOMAIN: “The Harbinger,” which was included in O Henry’s 1908 short story collection, “The Voice of the City,” is in the public domain.
“Sorrow is concealed in gilded palaces, and there’s no escaping it.”
–The Double, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
PETE – in his late 20s, a guy who can blend into the background of any room. He’s made enough traumatic emotional messes to be guarded and measured, avoiding any big emotion.
MAYA – in her late 20s, a woman whose default setting is lively joy, but since her husband’s death she hasn’t had the energy, or even looked very hard, though she’s working on getting it back.
WENDY – in her late 20s, a sweet, thoughtful woman who’s too nervous to be completely supportive when her friend needs her.
DOCTOR – in his 60s, a warm and connected psychiatrist who still holds himself at a good, professional reserve (though this character is written as male here, the role could be played by any gender).
FRIEND (voice) – in his late 20s, affable but distant.
Melody, a teenage girl, age 13
NOTE: The Snap Game is a game where different colored jelly bracelets represent sexual favors. If a boy successfully breaks a jelly bracelet off a girl’s wrist, he gets a sexual coupon for the associated act. A black jelly bracelet signifies intercourse.
MELODY plays with a black bracelet on her wrist, struggles to explain its significance to her older cousin.
It’s just a bracelet. It’s like, cool, okay, and I like black. ‘Cause it’s goth. Not goth like I’m gonna kill myself, that would be totally sad, but it’s a color or a shade or whatever. It like, goes with everything or something, right? Whatever. I can wear a black bracelet if I want to.
NOTES FROM THE PLAYWRIGHT:
I once read that New Mexico had abolished the death penalty, but that the repeals do not apply retroactively, leaving inmates currently sentenced on death row. This play was inspired by my imagining how those inmates must feel, knowing they are the last unlucky few to be executed.
When the script feels fast, it should go fast. When the script feels slow, especially in the pauses and towards the end, it should be slow.
It should take its time.