An interview with the director of STICK FLY

February 18, 2011

 The myth of the monolithic African American experience is squarely challenged by Lydia’s well-drawn, nuanced, sophisticated portrayals of these upper class African American characters and how they interact with “the other” in the course of their weekend retreat. The very invention and the history of the “African American” in our cultural mythology is, indeed, an ever-changing one, demonized one moment, idealized in another…all this and more gets played out in a theatrically vibrant way in Stick Fly. This play more than any other I’ve come across in some time felt like uncharted territory in dramatic literature yet a natural, timely exploration of the ever evolving story to humanize the multiplicity of African American experiences in this great nation.

Director Robert Barry Fleming

 

Stick Fly Director Robert Barry Fleming

Mo`olelo is thrilled to work with Director Robert Barry Fleming on this project. Our audiences may remember him from our 2009 production of Good Boys by Jane Martin where he played Thomas, the father of one of the victims from the school shooting in the show. In the midst of his prep for the show, we had an opportunity to interview him.

What attracted you to Direct Stick Fly? What makes this script unique?
It’s just a laugh-out-loud funny and fresh take on a family from of the American upper socio-economic strata that I’d never seen – a tremendously funny neo-comedy of manners in Lydia’s unmistakably unique voice.

What do you think is the central theme or essence of the play?
Being seen; having one’s value and humanity acknowledged or recognized.
Like Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, the characters in the play are often trying to rectify their perceptions of self while attempting to attain some gold standard or dreams or ideals that might not jibe with their real limitations and compromises of character.

Do you personally identify with any of the characters in the play?
All of them. Isn’t that what a great playwright does with their text? Help you see all the sides of yourself; those that flatter, repel, befuddle and tickle us? Lydia’s writing is such that light is shed on the ridiculous, noble and shadow sides of our natures through these figures, and she found some way into the heart of that with laughter. If we are willing to take the ride, the play allows us to welcome all the complexities of our humanity.

Ms. Diamond has mentioned that this play is about finding our fathers. What does that mean to you?
Our primary caregivers are ideally those who teach us who we are, what we value accept, reject, who we perceive as allies and enemies in times of joy and duress. We hope they love us first and best, unconditionally, and give us the footing to believe in ourselves; see ourselves as lovable and capable creatures poised to successfully realize our full potential. Mothers do this in one way and fathers in another, but we all have these fantasies of what a good parent should give us. How far short we inevitably fall of those idealized fantasies with our charges is without question grounds for comedy. Add race, class, gender and identity politics to that mix and that is definitely dramatically viable material for riotous farce. I love personal stories, particularly for the larger socio-political implications therein. As a nation we all know our founding fathers did miraculous things and it is also true they fell woefully short of recognizing the value of all American citizens. The severity of the cultural blind spots when it came to those outside of the dominant group is the stuff of tragedy or profound comedy depending on your perspective. The macro and micro repercussions are interwoven into the fabric of our society and consistently felt and played out in our daily interactions with one another everyday.

This production requires many props. What’s the most unusual prop on the Stick Fly stage?
Pickled pigs feet!

Tell us about Martha’s Vineyard, the setting of the play.
The place, Martha’s Vineyard, is significant and telling, too. It has such historical and metaphorical significance for African-Americans in terms of being in possession of one’s leisure, literal freedom of possessing one’s own space physically as well as psychologically. Much of that is explored in this piece and is significant in how these characters locate themselves in their personal narratives and their historical and cultural ones.

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