January 10, 2010

New year, new work

During my social hibernation back in Richmond, I've been taking advantage of the time to read, reflect, and work on my most recent piece, Anne and Me. It's still a work in progress, but I hope to have a 2nd draft completed by the time I return to Brooklyn.

I do not know why I decided to post it on my LiveJournal instead of here. Maybe it felt gentler there, and I have more control over who can access and respond to it. Not to mention, I have a larger fan base (if you can call it that).

As for the other piece I was working on, I'm going to consider it deliberately unfinished for now. I really, really, really hate being the kind of writer who has yet another piece that's never going to get done, but I was simply swept up in something that initially began on a lark. I may return to that bit later, when I'm gripped by something as powerful as what gripped me to turn Anne and Me into an actual script.

And here is where I fantasize about being interviewed by James Lipton.

JAMES LIPTON: Where did you get the idea for Anne and Me?

RVCBARD: It started out as frustration. I'm pretty active in the anti-racist blogosphere, especially over at Stuff White People Do and my LiveJournal, Lair of the Dragon Lady. The racial discourse I frequently encountered was often draining, disappointing, and disheartening because the my comments and those of other Black women were generally: 1) taken way out of context - often beyond the point of hyperbole, 2) interpreted in the worst possible light, generally painting us as Angry Black Women, 3) regurgitated many of the same cliche arguments to the point that you could play Bingo with them, and 4) insulted our intelligence, undermined our dignity, and made us question our sanity.

I've written thousands of words about the subject of racism, particularly as experienced by Black women. I've been tactful, caustic, intellectual, emotional, deferential, authoritative, honest, evasive, and just about any other adjective you could use to describe a way to get a message across. Almost inevitably, some White people completely miss my point, don't even realize it, and proceed to display that for all to see with the tacit or vocal approval of others.

For some reason, I was thinking about what it felt like to be a Black woman. At the time, I remember asking myself, "Why not write it as a scene?" Soon after I did that, I wrote another one, and it grew from there. They were not written in any kind of order. I wasn't concerned about plot or anything. I just needed a way to get my thoughts down without being burdened by rhetorical prose. Some of the feedback I'd received revealed that I was touching on something really powerful, so I used that as encouragement to see where the idea would take me.

JAMES LIPTON: Why Anne Hathaway?

RVCBARD: Why not? Simply put, I like her. I've been fascinated with her work for a while. I tend to get pretty intense when someone captures my imagination, which usually means I find out as much as I can about them. I don't mean celebrity gossip; I'm frankly not interested in that kind of thing, but I do try to get a sense of who they are as a person outside the image presented to the public. Not in any kind of invasive way, just very focused and deliberate. So casting her as an "imaginary friend" felt very natural.

JAMES LIPTON: Have you met her?

RVCBARD: No, but a couple of my online friends did. They told me she was very nice. She might not be nice to me if she reads Anne and Me though, but I feel like I'm working on something important enough to disregard my fear of rejection and humiliation.

JAMES LIPTON: How has writing Anne and Me changed your ideas about your writing?

RVCBARD: Before I really started working on Anne and Me, I was one of those artists who believed that theater should never be sullied by something as sordid as politics. I saw political engagement as the enemy of art, but I now realize that what I truly objected to was politics divorced from experience and presented as art. What bothered me was people saying nothing very loudly. In so many words, it's not the idea I objected to so much as the execution. Suffice it to say, I simply never came across many political pieces that appealed to me.

I was practically allergic to "identity theater" - theater that is about being Black, being a woman, being gay, etc. There's this strange paradox always hanging over "identity plays." The people who most needed to see it wouldn't, and the people who saw it already got it. So how do you go about getting the message to the people who need it and avoiding redundancy with the people who do? I don't pretend to have any answers for this, but it's just one of the thoughts that bubbled just beneath my consciousness.

JAMES LIPTON: Do you have any plans for producing Anne and Me?

RVCBARD: Not at the moment. To be honest, I'm scared to. Less than because it's likely to flop and more because of the distant chance it would succeed. It might be better to wait until after I'm dead, but by then I doubt it would be relevant anymore. It's a tough call, and I do not envy the person who would have to run the show. Unless Anne Hathaway produces and performs in it, in which case I'd feel a lot more comfortable.

JAMES LIPTON: Sounds like a dream come true.

RVCBARD: It could be.


  1. I really enjoy reading Anne and Me. It makes me uncomfortable sometimes (well, a lot), but that's as it should be. I hope you end up performing it!

  2. your comment about politics without experience in art was so on point, i don't know where to begin, other than CO-SIGNED!