We are entering a time where many of this nation’s ills are being brought to the forefront of social consciousness. It seems that every week, we the people are seeing more places where healing is greatly needed and one of humanity’s greatest healers is the arts.
This is the first in a series of articles where we get to know a few of the artists across the country who are using their work for activism and awareness regarding important subjects and conversations vital to society’s growth.
This is the final weekend for a new play, Moon Man Walk, by Philadelphia based playwright, four-time Barrymore Award winner, and 2015 Pew Fellow, James Ijames (prononced: eye-ms); it is a play about finding love and family secrets with a bit of magic. Mr. Ijames astounded audiences last summer with his tragicomedy, The Most Spectacularly Lamentable Trial of Miz Martha Washington and this time, with Moon Man Walk, Ijames is exploring relationships between mothers and sons, specifically in black families. While very aware that familial themes are universal and his work can be and is enjoyed by all audience members, Ijames writes, “…very specifically to black people. The humor, the diction, the structure, are all subverting the white gaze…I always think I’m writing something that is going to be exclusive to a black viewer, but it never ends up that way.I’m always proving that we are all very different but we are all very much the same.” It is this last statement that very succinctly sums up the need for diversity in the arts as well as the cornerstone of artistic activism: to celebrate rather than to further divide.
As far as the role of the playwright in artistic activism, Ijames believes that it plays a very specific and unique part. “I think a large part of the ‘talent’ of a playwright is being able to feel the full wave of history. To not just be living in the moment but to examine the current moment and write about what you think this moment in time will have to say to us in 10 years. The playwright is prophetic in that way…I believe that part of my job is to have that kind of cultural sensitivity.” This sensitivity is what has made iconic playwrights in the past which is why their works are still revered today. In all of human history, the one tradition that has remained as the first tool of education has been storytelling. This art has provided not only entertainment, but also vital instruction on interaction and survival.
In the struggle for true equality it is important that a variety of stories are told on the artistic platform. All good stories are based in truth, and that truth is best found from those who have lived it. This is why artists and creators of color are so necessary moving forward. America needs to see and relate to this truth in order to be free.
Orbiter 3 presents Moon Man Walk by James Ijames is running now until July 19th at the Prince Theater Independent Black Box in Philadelphia. It is directed by Edward Sobel and stars Lindsay Smiling, Jaylene Clark Ownes, Aimé Donna Kelly, and Carlo Campbell.
Following this production, James Ijames’ newest work, WHITE, will be presented in the 2015 PlayPenn New Play Conference. WHITE explores the concept of visual art and who truly gets to make “black art”.
For tickets and more information on Moon Man Walk, visit www.orbiter3.com
For tickets and more information on the 2015 PlayPenn New Play Conference, visit www.playpenn.org
For information on James Ijames, visit www.jamesijames.com