I’ve not been sleeping, again, and when sleeping dreaming.
It always happens when working In the Red and Brown Water because somehow we’ve worked to keep the piece in the formation in which it came: dream like sad and sweet, powerful and delicate. I must tell you I am aware of how exhausting it can be to hold that world up, to live in it, to explore it. One must open the door to it and hold it up and walk around in it. Its kind of like being a little kid who throws up a great sheet into the air, then runs underneath it to see who else is underneath and continues to hold it up tarp like with one hand so you can see find your way through. I am sure that didn’t make much sense. But what doesn’t make sense are the feelings that this play draws up.
Ton upon tons of complicated questions the play asks in direct and indirect ways.
It is no secret that I wrote this play for my sister (s). I have one biological sister, the youngest in my immediate family. A strong and courageous woman who has in her mere 21 years in this world seen some dark days. And the other sister, my mother. Who passed away from AIDS-related complications in 2003. And as heartbreaking and sometimes devastating the process of my mother’s death was, sometimes I cannot get over the even more sometimes heartbreaking and uplifting life of my sister.
As a young girl she was there when my mother became most ill and took over as woman of the house. She worked her way through High School keeping grades and life up as my mother’s health fell deeper into non-repair and my younger brother ran in and out of trouble along with the health of her stepfather also falling apart. Two ill parents, a brother who was in trouble with the law, another who was miles away in school, for of all things the theater, and here is this… this baby trying to grow into a woman in a world that has been scientifically proven to be harshest to women but women of color even more. So what does she do? She holds on. She holds her head up; she remains faithful in the Lord above and keeps her nose to the grind. My mother died and she put the funeral together, respectable simple and silent she was… Her stepfather, the only man she knew as father died, and she respected his wishes and carried out his will. She then went to college and paid the bills by working. I helped her out when I can/could but still she did it by herself, does it by herself. She makes it to her last year in College about to graduate and she gets into a car accident, she hits another car. The woman in the car is pregnant. And because of the stress of the accident, not the impact, the woman in the car loses her child.
I am so sorry for the loss and so is my sister. She is devastated she calls me and says as a woman she doesn’t know how to feel about this terrible accident. She wasn’t drinking, she doesn’t do drugs, she just lost control of her car on a turn, and an accident she had made another woman lose her child. She tells me she will have to live with that. I am floored at her honesty and bravery for saying this. She calls me later that week and says she’s being arrested by the police in her hometown. She tells me they are attempting to charge her with feticide. I drop to the ground and cry. I cannot believe the heavens can be this hard on one soul. Is’t possible! But my sister is strong and faithful… she keeps her head to the sky and her feet on the ground. I go down to bail her out of jail. She’s obviously shaken but not bowed. The court won’t drop the charges and in fact place my sister on house arrest and a bracelet around her ankle, like the rapper TI who was found with machine guns, a court believed my sister needed to be tracked. Myself, members of my sister’s Church and her pastor, plead with her attorney to let the judge know that my sister is within months of graduating school and if she stops now she may never be able to rectify and finish. They concede and allow her for 4 months to only go to school, work and church while she awaits this trial that the court still is planning. My sister, God in Heaven, she says good! This will keep me focused on the most important things. INCREDIBLE. I watch as the world hands her the sourest lemons instead of gold and somehow, sometimes with no sugar and little water I watch her make lemonade.
My sister turns 22 on May 5, three days after she graduates from Fort Valley University in GA and 4 days after the play that I wrote and dedicated to her opens in Princeton, NJ. And though I love the play and want to be there for opening… I’ve got to go down to Georgia not just to see graduation but also to say hello to the woman who inspires me to be better everyday.
So in rehearsal sometimes it is hard to sit in rehearsal and not think about how unfair these situations seem. And how I’ve watched this little gap- toothed-girl put on her work boots, put on her high heart and love still, live still, in times when I wanna fall and catch a knee she’s standing strong forging ahead. A hero. She is. And I say to all of us, if not for my sister, the many sisters who don’t make it to graduation, those who can’t quite and for those who do, our exhaustion and exploration is the best thank you and ‘we hear you’ and ‘we love you’ … that we can give… that I can give.
So I say to you today and the next time and the next: Here is IN THE RED AND BROWN WATER Dedicated to my sister (s).
Posted by Tarell Alvin McCraney, playwright of The Brother/Sister Plays.