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A Note From the Playwright

Inda Craig-Galván, Black Super Hero Magic Mama

Playwright Inda Craig-Galván. Photo by Julián Juaquin.

I keep a photo on my desk of a playground in Cleveland, Ohio. There’s snow on the ground. Footprints in the snow where a boy had been playing all by himself, alone with his imagination. As a mother, I find the image of a Black boy playing pretend — without any friends — to be simultaneously wondrous and a little sad. I imagine the game he might have been imagining: a Wild West shootout, a standoff between the Rebel Alliance and Darth Vader’s droids, cops & robbers. I’ll never know. The before isn’t seen in this particular photo that I keep on my desk. This image was captured later. It’s the after. After police officers Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback responded to a call — a suspect brandishing a gun at the playground. Seconds after they arrived on scene, Loehmann fired twice, shooting the suspect. The “gun” was a toy. The “suspect” was 12-year-old Tamir Rice. Loehmann, by the way, had already been deemed unfit and emotionally unstable at his previous police station, but nobody at the Cleveland PD reviewed the officer’s personnel file before hiring him and setting him off in a patrol car. Tamir Rice died the next day. It was his last day. Tamir Rice would have no more after, happily ever or otherwise. No more playgrounds. No more games. No more.

As is always the case, reporters went to the police chief for statements… and then to the mother. In any other instance, with any other mother and any other child, there is a respect for privacy. There exists an understanding that a mother who’s lost her child should — must — be allowed to grieve. But somewhere within our collective conscious’ numbness to “another one” of these shooting deaths, we — the media and society at large — have come to expect something else. The Black Mother must attend the rallies, lead the prayers and keep on going. She must show up. We bandy words like strong and brave. We solder our learned expectations to these newly-initiated members of this messed-up-mothers-club. These women have shown up and played their part in this cyclical nightmare, because it is what is expected. That’s their burden, on top of their tragedy, that we’ve all come to accept.

I wrote this play as a defiant response to that expectation of the Black Mother to show up and be brave and strong. What happens if a mother doesn’t? What if she can’t. What if she won’t. Is she then deemed unfit? Do we label her emotionally unstable? Or do we give her the care and consideration that we would give any other mother who has lost a child? In this mother’s time of grief, can we honor her by allowing her to just grieve? To just…be.

I also wrote this play as an homage to the fantastical adventure stories my own children grew up with. Stories about the boy who lived, the girl who went to Oz, the children who went through the wardrobe. Their passages into wondrous worlds all begin with a tragedy: Harry Potter is unloved, living under the Dursleys’ stairs after his parents’ death; Dorothy gets conked on the head during a tornado; the Pevensie siblings are sent away for their own safety during World War II. For the mother in Black Super Hero Magic Mama, a tragic event propels her into a world where she gets to be the hero. Whether this means seeking vengeance, forgiveness or both, we get to see a Black woman on stage at the center of a fantasy in a way that we don’t often get to see ourselves portrayed. She is brave and strong; and she is also at times sad, angry, confused and even funny. She is human.

For tickets and showtimes, please visit geffenplayhouse.org/magicmama or call our Box Office at 310.208.5454 (open daily, 7:00 a.m. — 6:00 p.m.).

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