Guest post by Nicole Quinn, on the subject of play, and the power of art to uplift the spirit. Nicole read this piece in Woodstock, NY, at Sunday’s The Secret City, an on-going performance gathering for people who believe in the arts. Part ceremony, part salon, part tent revival, each gathering has a different theme and features an ever-changing roster of artists and performers sharing work relating to the theme.
I like to play. (Brit) “Sometimes I play at being foreign,” (EU) “Sorry, my English is not perfect,” usually in situations where the color of my skin tells a story which is not mine, when it casts me in a role I don’t want to play. I’m not a thug or a victim. I’m not a nigger. A symphony happens lately when I walk through my neighborhood grocery store parking lot, a percussion of car door locks and syncopated beeps, the remotes sometimes aimed at me like semi-automatic weapons. Maybe they’re playing video games in their heads, I tell myself of these neighbors who’ve recently been sanctioned to so publicly hate. I don’t know how to play this game.
The notion that acting is play appealed to me early on. Onstage I’m not confined to what is, brown skin and frizzy hair, in a world that uses melanin to define personality. Onstage I’ve played a spectrum of humanity, men, women, in between, Indian, Latina, Russian.
When I’m alone with myself I have no color, no body type, no sense of being less or more than anything else. I’m me, a being who appeared on the planet the day I was born, who likes to play at being everything!
I write plays. Screenplays, stage plays, my life’s play, but mostly I like to improvise, to riff off the script I’ve been given to play. Today I’m changing my dialogue from “What the fuck?” to “Let’s play!”