chapter  7
3 Pages


The playing area is littered with objects: whip, skull, magic lantern projector, postcards, a copy of Lady Gregory’s The Workhouse Ward, Zora Neale Hurston’s Cold Keener, several television sets, a bullhorn, a camera, a Republic of Ireland passport, and some small Irish flags. The mural of Frederick Douglass on the Solidarity Wall in Northern Ireland is projected onto the floor of the playing area (see Figu re 1.2). The historian and the dramaturge enter stage left and begin to pick up the

objects. As they do so, “characters” wander into the space. For instance, picking up the whip brings Aunt Hester to the scene; placing the skull on a table brings about the metamorphosis of a nineteenth-century woman from famine-struck Ireland. Although almost imperceptible, we might glimpse Frederick Douglass, or the English Quaker William Bennett, or Daniel O’Connell as they appear in the shadows. When the historian dusts off the magic lantern projector and finds a way to

turn it on, a silhouette of a statuesque woman is projected and Maud Gonne walks out of the shadows. Lifting up a postcard conjures up Ida B. Wells. When Gonne and Wells see each other they freeze, and the image of Joan of Arc is projected from the magic lantern between the two women. Further social and theatrical actors do not appear in the playing area, but we hear what sounds like an overly large family reunion that becomes louder as the performance continues. Picking up an object occasionally mobilizes a subject, as well as manifesting

further objects. When a copy of The Workhouse Ward falls from a shelf, for instance, Lady Augusta Gregory walks from upstage right to pick up the book and place it back where it belongs. As she does so, a series of architectural replicas of Coole House, the Gort Workhouse, and a thatched cottage drop

down from above. Similarly, as the dramaturge picks up a copy of Cold Keener, Zora Neale Hurston opens the door from the front of house and walks to the playing area as if she has been waiting for this to happen all along. The jook house and Joe Clark’s store porch appear intertwined with the replicas of the Galway structures. The family reunion-like soundscape continues with people laughing, gossiping, crying, and singing. These sounds are curiously mingled with those of waves lapping against a pier. Spectators begin to sense that water is nearby, or that maybe this theater is not on dry land. When the historian and dramaturge turn on a series of 1960s-style television

sets, activity begins to speed up: one news program shows footage from the 1963 March on Washington, another television set is playing Bernadette Devlin’s 1969 appearance on the Johnny Carson Show, and the final screen announces the 1969 premiere of Wine in the Wilderness while a journalist interviews the playwright, Alice Childress. Irish playwright Sean O’Casey appears on stage, goes over to speak to Lady Gregory, and brings her over to watch the interview with Childress. Lady Gregory squeezes O’Casey’s arm and smiles when Childress discusses his influence on her work. As these moving images continue on the television screens, the dramaturge

gets out of her chair and picks up the camera. Each time she makes the gesture of taking a photo, one of the characters from Elizabeth Kuti’s 2005 play The Sugar Wife walks onto the playing area. Click One: Sarah Worth appears from the audience and takes Aunt

Hester’s hand. As she does so Sorcha Fox, the co-star of O’Kelly’s The Cambria, appears and takes her other hand. They sit together (just downstage from Gregory and O’Casey) and watch Bernadette Devlin discuss Irish-African American relations on the Johnny Carson Show. Click Two: Hannah Tewkley rushes onto the playing area in a Chinese

robe. As Alfred Darby adjusts the robe to make it “just right,” and Samuel Tewkley looks on admiringly, Zora Neale Hurston smiles and nods her head “yes,” thinking she might be able to work with that explicit level of theatrical primitivism and that Samuel would make a fine patron of her art. Lady Augusta Gregory looks over with some contempt (she distrusts theatrical Quakers). Click Three: Martha (“Mrs. Eighty-Nine”) slowly moves from a seat in

the audience and walks onto the playing area. She blinks and notices a famine mother who has been wandering around on stage since the dramaturge or the historian (she cannot remember which one) picked up the skull that was lying on the floor. Martha reaches down for a document she has never seen before. As she studies the Republic of Ireland passport, she hears children begin to laugh as they run and hide between herself and the famine mother. The children appear to be from Africa but are all from Ireland; Irish citizens waving flags. As the flags are waved, they are joined by the children’s mothers who were in the wings, waiting for someone in the playing area to take notice. The women and children gather around the television set that is showing footage of women with placards marching on Washington.