Nappy Hair and Other Black Girl Blues is a project four-years-in-the-making that Danielle conceived from experience of momentary (unexplained) hair loss & manifestation to celebratory vanity. “3” is a result of paring down a larger idea built from the former.
She called me in 2007 and blurted the title at me.
“I have an idea for a one woman show called 'Nappy Hair and Other Black Girl Blues.”
“A one woman show that YOU would do?”
“Yeah. It's for me.”
Then she told me the concept.
As the conversation progressed she revealed she wanted my help in constructing it. We bantered for 45 minutes on concept, result, & structure (by “structure I mean we had no idea what we wanted). I loved the idea and became trapped by danger of conversation, philosophy & research. So taken, was I, with the idea – wrapped up in the study rather than creation – I couldnt write it for some time. I could see her shifting from one character to another. I could hear her voice by various pitch & physicality defined by circumstance, but I could not hear the words because I was too caught up in research (J.G. Ballard once said: “...research is the refuge of the unimaginative.”).
I can't pin point why she chose me for this project, though we share a long theatrical history. We got along well enough (seven years of friendship & not one argument, not even artistic clashes during the conception of this project), yet our differences split us like a drunken semi-truck through a corner store glass wall. She carries a healthy optimism while I drag my collected luggage from one part of life to the next. She holds unflinching faith & a healthy relationship with God while I claim “it's complicated.” She carries angelic charm, charisma, magnetism, fortitude, a soundtrack for her melodic aura, streamlined focus (in form of God's predestination), & universal appeal. I carry...the opposite & yet she came to me with her idea & I knew, with her kind of energy, it would be foolish & counter-productive not to go along with her.
I am not the straight laced, well behaved bloke one would expect Danielle to place in her company. Which could be (the more I plow the proverbial fields) the very reason she pulled me in. I've always lived life in a hurry & bound my life by restraints of creative growth – an outwardly irresponsible journey one takes until they hit the speed bump of adult hood & decide to “get serious.”
I never got serious. I think that's what Danielle saw.
The women in “3” (much like the characters throughout the series) represent a lack of spiritual confidence that plagues the larger majority of people. These are women I went to school with, over-heard at bus stops, danced with at night clubs, talked to in passing, dated, drank with & held long term friendships. These are women who cashed in dignity for narcissism. Devoted energy to pain & disloyalty to love. Women who respond to vengeance, rumors, false prophets, pop culture, bad music, fast food, idolatry, street codes & Old Testament existentialism...& I love every single one of them.
Their contradictions frighten me. The refusal to search for inner-self baffles me – & I can't see them any other way. There was no urge to “redeem” their vicious deeds. Nor did I feel compelled to save them for the sake of happy endings. To do any of this was not only false but a dishonor to these women all together. The theater is one of the few expressions (next to the novel) that allows room for absurdist rigamarole – a connection to life circumstance which frustrates the outside party. “3” was my way of stating: “...this does not always make sense because people don't make sense – neither to the outsider nor first person victim. These things just happen.”
When I completed the first draft of “3” in November 2009 (first several drafts of the script, prior to “3”, date back to 2007), Danielle wasn't certain about it.
“I like it, but...” (fill in the blank)
My depression at that time was high & I had no energy to justify the play so I quickly dismissed the segment & figured the series had gone adrift into obscurity. Instead I wrote and published my two novels (both of them failures & now out of print) while time passed before Danielle & I spoke on the topic of Black Girl Blues again. The reappearance of the project unveiled from the same fog that swallowed it a year & a half prior. Upon becoming a Mother she read the script(s) again – “3” in particular – & encouraged me to give it another look. I resisted. I told her:
“These are not likable characters.”
“I know. But I love them.”
She hung up the phone & called back a week later.
“I booked a space,” she said. “The show opens in September.”
“We open in September?”
“Just like that?!”
Then she hung up on me. I read the play. I agreed with her.
Danielle took the wheel and steered us off road into the backwoods with thick trees, wild animals & an instant cliff with a thousand foot drop. She plowed us, face first, on river rocks for our bodies to be devoured by mountain lions & wild shrimp. I laughed with pleasure at this unflinching approach. An approach I knew well but needed reminding by way of crashing land-slides & merciless ice storms. This is one of many times she has roused me from isolation (by way of gentle encouragement & push) to reprise our mission, our purpose while informing me life is hard, now get back to work – discipline I lived by & forgotten over time & tragedy. Danielle took this project as a personal road map towards upward mobility & artistic freedom. She didn't turn to another writer when things got difficult & life took turns. She stuck it out, trusted the message from God, gave me space during my (numerous) psychological episodes & quietly got me back on track. She rekindled my first love & inspired me to strive for a life of full creative freedom.
Which defines the essence of Danielle Mone' Truitt. She motivates one to say “Yes.” It's easy to trust her. Her intentions are pure & she doesn't seek blood nor call upon one to do more than has been properly distributed by God. She's one of the few actors who can be handed anything & give it life by fierce commitment & all the while never makes it look like work. She can turn it on & off & manage not to take it home with her. There's a healthy schizophrenic vein that ignites the truth of a character & dismisses mythology of acting. Her technique – despite understanding of craft – is non-traditional yet patriotic by process. Every role contributes to her distance of range & places her outside common limits, often, put upon Black artists. We're assumed by agencies & directors to lack range in ability since the job of the Black artists (according to the Civil Rights era) is to represent the Black experience, be it relevant by social standards or shallow exploits, which destroys humanity & buries complexity. Yet when complexity in Black art comes to the surface (George C. Wolf's “The Colored Museum” & “Jelly's Last Jam”, Wendell B. Harris Jr.'s “Chameleon Street”, Oscar Micheaux's “The Homesteder”, Ralph Ellison's “Invisible Man”, or Charles Burnett's “Killer of Sheep”) there is an awe of admiration followed by backlash with targets on content. The “shhhh, don't tell no one our secrets unless you're a black comedian” syndrome comes forth & stifles wit & complexity to release in-house perpetuated stereotypes & trivial followings. The unsettling result is a contradiction: we fear complexity because we fear our layers will make us look bad (through America history Black folks have had to prove to whites that we possess angelic purity which lifts the wicked from our actions), & yet we look bad by eschewing layers all together, leaving two voided dimensions & celebrating the minstrel show we call ourselves offended by.
This is not the route Danielle or myself have taken. We have lost the energy to complain & extended effort to make it happen. She has had just as much doubt on this project as I. We knew by undertaking an independent show, engulfed by theatrics, (in the age of short attention span & anti-relevance) meant risk. A large risk. And we have welcomed it with pounding hearts. The aspirations behind this show have been big from the origin & neither of us can see this in any other fashion. We've come this far. We've sparked an interest. At this moment it's all we can be grateful for.
Saturday, August 20, 2011
Posted by anthony djuan shelton at 7:43 PM
- anthony djuan shelton
- writer, actor, & producer in training. in 2005, along side my partner in film and best friend since childhood, we produced and executed 3 films. to this day i am still working in "the business" to the best of my abilities and moving forward to the "next level." currently i am producing a film project, co-writing another, awaiting word on a stage play for New York, and pursuing my next one-person show. i'm also in school pursuing my Ph.D in Social Science.