The first five-minute entry in this 12-play collection is by Sharlene Clinton, who is also making her playwriting debut. “Flawless Beauty: Hair Across The Diaspora” is a heart-wrenching look at how Black women have been vilified and controlled by their hair, beginning in this country in 1618. She is also one to watch. Her play is tight, well-researched, and a stunning overview to introduce the rest in this production. Mia Robinson is the actor that gives us her words and movement.
This was a complete pleasure to watch — twelve talented writers and six actors simply own the screen.
That pretty much sums up all the works but they all also show the pride and survival skills of Black women and how reclaiming their power has evolved over time. It’s never “just” about hair. In our world, it’s about pride and thriving.
“Natural Hair Story: The Struggles of A Black Hair Journey,” written, acted, and directed by Jaki Griot, is a devastating poem about how generations of Black women — in a desperate bid to save their families from harassment, brutality, and the KKK — tried to “tame” their daughters’ hair as a way of removing one thing from their plates that could get them hurt. Griot doesn’t blame these ancestors, she just leaves it there for us to sit with.
“First Rehearsal,” by Agyeiwaa Asante and acted by Lauren Davis, was funny and horrifying at the same time. I worked in theatre for 10 years, but front-of-house, and I found myself hoping that the theatre I worked for never, ever did this. It was quite illuminating.
“My Hair, My Glory: Poetry in Motion,” by Lakeshia Ferebee as playwright/actor/director, was a joyous and frustrating look at how Black women still fight against society’s judgment of their hair. At one point, Ferebee says, “Do I hate my hair? No, I do not, but do I love it? Sometimes.” No head should have to bow to that much weight placed on something innate.
“Faux Locs: Natural Hair and Dating,” by playwright/director/actor, Naelis Ervin, puts Ervin in the role of a person prepping for a date. It features Ebony Jackson as her BFF. The piece was both humorous and painful. It seems Black men put a lot of cultural and societal weight on Black women’s hair, too.
“Saying Goodbye: Leaving The Natural Hair Movement,” by Taylor Leigh Lamb and featuring Charence Higgins as the actor, was brilliant. It was also a mea culpa moment focused on a fictional YouTuber who had amassed 500,000 followers by adhereing to the script for success in that arena. She also slides in the information that the Black “hair-typing system” was created by a man to sell hair products. As she shuts down her channel, you can see the weight lifting as she orchestrates her own personal “Wizard of Oz behind the curtain” moment.
“Black Hair Is Music: The Sounds of Wash Day,” by playwright/director/actor Jasmine Mitchell, was a little scary. The music was a major part of this vignette. It captured the smoothness of shampooing and moisturizing and the punishment and manipulations Black hair takes in getting ready for the process. It was short and effective.
“Advice To An 80s Child Dealing With Her Hair in Northern Virginia: Black Hair Phases & Acceptance,” by Lisa Hill-Corley as playwright/actor, was very funny. When she channeled her mother, you could picture the lady in her church outfit, hat and wig, and giving that “don’t give me any sass” look as she laid down the law. It also subtly made its point that a creator who gave Black women these locks did not make a mistake.
“The Dreaded Truth: A Personal Journey” is by another playwright making her debut, Marita A. McKee. Actor Jazz A. Lewis brought graceful life to this combination of poem/movement/dance celebrating and reclaiming hair that has roots in antiquity that has been appropriated as a “style” in the last several decades. Lewis rocked this role.
“I Learned: The Tools For Hair Acceptance,” by Belle Gaskin-Burr, makes clear that it’s never just about a hair style. It’s putting on a suit of armor and learning to “armor up, emotionally if not physically.” But the physical follows, as does a refusal to be less than oneself. It’s all handled with a light, deft touch.
‘”Hang Time: Wigs, Weddings and Family,” by playwright April Amara and featuring Zipporah Brown, was hilarious. Picture a young woman, somewhat estranged from her sister as an adult, being asked to be in said sister’s wedding as the maid-of-honor. But Miss Bridezilla (her words) wants everyone to wear a wig. This does not sit well with the maid of honor, but she is willing to give her sister what she wants for her special day. First she has a few things to get off her chest and it is riotously funny.
“Rant & Hair Affair: Fro-Scouts in Nature,” by playwright/director/actor Lauren Davis, ends the show with a piece of poetry slam. It is percussive in delivery and sharp in it’s anger. It questions why can’t society just let Black women have their hair so everyone can focus on what’s really important. It’s takes place in a series of outdoor settings, with a variety of costumes that showcase a queen. It’s a strong ending to a strong show.
This was a complete pleasure to watch. Twelve talented writers and six actors simply own the screen. For people not of color who think they might understand and relate to this already, no, you don’t. You need to see the entire panoply to understand the insidious roots of oppression that found expression in Black women’s hair. You will also laugh and be glad you got to know a little bit about these strong, vulnerable women who are just trying to live their best lives like all of us.
Running Time: Approximately 54 minutes without intermission.
Show Advisory: Some adult language.
“This Crown Is Mine” ran May 22, 2021, presented by Two Strikes Theatre Collective. For more information about this new company, please click here.