chapter  12
15 Pages

Keeping It Real Without Selling Out: Toward Confronting and Triumphing Over Racially-Specifi c Barriers in American Acting Training

ByVENUS OPAL REESE

Ron Eyerman, in his book Cultural Trauma: Slavery and the Formation of African American Identity, regards trauma not as an institution or experience, but as a collective memory that serves as the basis for identity formation of a people. He writes, “There is a difference between trauma as it affects individuals and as a cultural process. As a cultural process, trauma is mediated through various forms of representation and linked to the reformation of collective identity and the reworking of collective memory.”2 Eyerman’s “collective memory” is more a function of language than cognitive psychology, in that he examines how each generation of African Americans goes through its own process naming and renaming American slavery. This renaming, this reconstituting of self at the communal level, is not a monolithic experience; there are many Americans of African ancestry who may have never known a day of hardship in their life; some do not know about the history of slavery in North America. This reconstituting of self has to do with the representation of experience encountered generationally and historically by a person of African ancestry-simply by virtue of skin color and the historical site that skin color represents. In other words, cultural trauma is not the institution of or experience of slavery, but rather the collective stories we tell and reconstitute generationally about slavery and its impacts. This (re)membering of cultural trauma is immortalized in plays.