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Can I Get A Witness?

By Lindsay A. Jenkins, Dramaturg for Black Cypress Bayou

In her book, Black Imagination, Natasha Marin offers “Seeing ourselves as whole and healthy is an act of pure rebellion in a world so titillated by our constant subjugation.” The creation of art in response to racial violence is a part of the legacy of Black theatremakers. For example, during the pandemics of lynchings and terror that spread across the U.S. in the early 1900s, it was playwrights such as Angelina Weld Grimké and Georgia Douglas Johnson who acknowledged the impact of this violence on the interior lives of Black women and Black families.

This act of seeing and being seen is an important aspect of performance that can lead to healing. And so, we take our role as audience members seriously as we come together for the collective witnessing of Black Cypress Bayou by Kristen Adele Calhoun.

Natasha Marin also observes that “witnessing is sacred work.” In honor of Marin’s beautifully sacred work, I offer you a ritual for witnessing this performance :

  • Close your eyes. Take a breath. Think about the people who have come before you. Did they have the luxury of leisure? Of free-time? Of disposable income? Bring them with you into the space. Say their names. During the show, if someone puts out a call, lean into the response.
  • When the play ends, please fellowship. Linger in the lobby chatting. Touch and agree.
  • Remember that ritual results in transformation. These transformations can look like:
    • Closed to Open
    • Hurt to Healed
    • Denial to Acceptance
    • Secrecy to Transparency
    • Sadness to Joy

I leave you with this reflection from Alexis Pauline Gumbs from her soul-stirring book Undrowned:

“What is the scale of breathing? You put your hand on your individual chest as it rises and falters all day. But is that the scale of breathing? You share air and chemical exchange with everyone in the room, everyone you pass by today. Is the scale of breathing within one species? All animals participate in this exchange of release for continued life. But not without the plants. The plants in their inverse process, release what we need, take what we give without being asked. And the planet, wrapped in ocean breathing, breathing into the sky. What is the scale of breathing? You are part of it now. You are not alone.”

Click here to see the research (and the memes, and the videos) that supported this beautiful work.

Black Cypress Bayou

FEB 10 – MAR 17, 2024

Written by Kristen Adele Calhoun
Directed by Tiffany Nichole Greene
Featuring Amber Chardae Robinson, Brandee Evans, Angela Lewis & Kimberly Scott

On a hot summer night in Texas, Vernita Manifold summons her two daughters down to the bayou with a secret too big to keep. The richest, meanest man in town is dead, and the Manifold women know more than they’re saying. As secrets begin to surface, the bonds between the women, their town, and the legacy of their ancestors all come to a head. Black Cypress Bayou is a hilarious, suspenseful world premiere about loyalty, healing, and comeuppance.

Recipient of the Edgerton Foundation New Play Award. Major support for this world premiere production provided by the Edgerton Foundation New Play Production Fund. This production is made possible, in part, by support from Cast Iron Entertainment.



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