We recently had the opportunity to see a performance of Lydia Diamond’s play, Stick Fly, hosted on campus last weekend as part of the ongoing recognition of Black History Month (or African-American History Month). (The title can vary according to different sources.)
As with Black Violin, we had little idea as to the play itself but as campus prides itself on putting on a high standard of work for the most part, we trundled down to the theater on a sunny Sunday afternoon. (The play was only being hosted three times and I didn’t want to miss it.) So off we went…
The story centers around an affluent African-America family who all meet for one weekend at their weekend house, the two sons both bringing their new girlfriends (one white and one Af-Am) along with them. Add to the mix the now-adult child of the family’s old housekeeper and it’s an explosive recipe. As the weekend progresses, the paterfamilias arrives (sans wife) and via the two new girlfriends, a whole new family dynamic emerges with fresh perspectives. It’s not a comfortable narrative arc, but it does address some valuable issues as it progresses through its different acts.
Girlfriend #1 is African-American and secretly engaged to the younger son and none of the family know about this state of affairs. She is young, fiery, outspoken and passionate and creates quite a stir for everyone just being herself. Her boyfriend (younger son) is a lost soul who would rather write than do anything, an occupation found not really suitable by the rest of the family who would rather he would commit to a more concrete pragmatic career.
Girlfriend #2 is older, white, has a Ph.D. in multicultural issues and arrives as a “friend with benefits” sort of thing. She’s with the elder son who is an accomplished plastic surgeon, and so the stage is set for some interesting conversations that challenge the status quo: ones that challenge ideas of race, class, multigenerational issues and multicultural issues.
So – there is a lot packed into this play, but it doesn’t seem overstuffed with all the Big Topics. They flow very naturally into the play’s narrative and don’t provide roadblocks along the way. This was a great way to spend Sunday afternoon and I appreciated all the work that the students had put into making this play so professional.
The play was written in 2006 and was awarded the Black Theater Alliance Award for that year. The playwright, Lydia Diamond, who has written plays adapted from The Bluest Eye (by Toni Morrison) and the poetry of Nikki Giovanni. Good stuff.