By Guest Author Cecilia Mencia
Institutional racism, cultural trauma, gun right, police brutality: Playwright Tracy Conyer Lee tackles many social issues in her play Rabbit Summer. Directed by KenYatta Rogers, this world premiere tragicomedy performed at the Ally Theatre Company is part of the Women’s Voices Theater Festival.
The formidable cast features performances by Michelle Rogers (Ruby Faison), Jeremy Keith Hunter (Wilson Faison) and Tamieka Chavis (Claire Cooper). The characters battle out their personal problems and collective trauma in a tidy, well-decorated living room with a white sofa, an original painting, a bar, and a chifforobe (The focal point of the play. More on that later).
A black married couple, Ruby and Wilson (a policeman), attempt to work out their marital differences in a civilized manner much to Ruby’s chagrin. Ruby is all about digging to find emotional truths and Wilson just wants everything to be perfect. He wants a second child — A son. She has other intentions.
Lights out. Music up. Scene 2 introduces Claire Cooper, Ruby’s BFF: a home-wrecker, and instigator. Claire has been through some life-changing trauma. Each time her cell phone rings the Sanford and Son theme song plays and it’s never good news. Her husband was killed by a white cop who wasn’t charged with the crime. Guns and violence are all part of the collective trauma of the community — a manifestation of hundreds of years of injustice. Playwright Tracey Conyer Lee showcases how the cycle of persecution can trigger the most unpredictable responses, outrageous behavior, and reactions in the most average scenarios
Now back to the chifforobe in the living room — a gift to Wilson from his mother. It’s also where Ruby has hidden some munition. This turning point in the play serves as symbolism for the accumulation of injuries and aggressions against a people and their cultural and collective trauma.
At one point, Wilson sits in the wooden armoire saying nothing with only a spotlight on him. It’s a moment when words are unnecessary because the message is implied. Director KenYatta Rogers said it best when he said, “Dealing with a daily barrage of racial gaslighting is exhausting… America is steeped in racial and cultural violence.“ Indeed, it is, and Rabbit Summer shows that sometimes violence is perpetrated in our own domain and within our private relationships.
Tracey Conyer Lee is a full-time actor-playwright living in New York City. Her plays Standing Up: Bathroom Talk & Other Stuff We Learn From Dad: Poor Posturing and The First Time appeared in the New York International Fringe Festival, The Fire This Time Festival of short plays, or in readings and development through Urban Stages, National Black Theatre and The Fire This Time Festival. Poor Posturing received a Boston run of a selected 6 of the 25+ plays from TFTT’s first four seasons. With The First Time, Ms. Lee was nominated for New York Innovative Theatre’s 2016 Doric Wilson Independent Playwright Award (NYITA) and was selected for Congo Square’s 2015 August Wilson New Play Initiative. Ms. Lee was the 2010-2011 resident playwright for Don’t Miss A Beat, Inc., an arts and education program in Jacksonville, FL which introduces marginalized youth to the world of theater, music, and dance. She has written for Boomerang Theatre’s Rock-NRoles series, LDTG and was invited to guest blog for the Huffington Post on “Gratitude”, of which she is in abundance. Ms. Lee is a 2018 MFA merit scholar candidate in Writing For the Stage & Screen at New Hampshire Institute of Art, for which she has written a full-length musical, a tv pilot, and the play you are about to see thanks to Buzz McLaughlin, who mentored the birth of Rabbit Summer.
Guest Author: Cecilia Mencia is a DC-based journalist and founder of DCtrending – A digital magazine focusing on social impact and cultural relevance in the nation’s capital.