Photo by Debra Lopez
Playing this role for this director was a major turning point in my understanding of my work as a storyteller. Bec I have no doubt, the reason I became an actor was to tell stories abt the ability humans have to transform themselves to become better than what was promised.
I realized that I had to play roles in which my character was the subject & not just the object existing to tell someone else’s story; devoid of depth or complication. In order to accomplish this goal, I had to be ruthless abt whose story I was telling when I accepted a role.
I grew up understanding that a black woman’s lot was to be strong & impenetrable. To never expect to be cared for or cherished, but to work beyond all human capacity to become a super woman who needed no one bec no one was ever going to take care of me so I was going to have to do it myself.
This very limited view of my humanity left me wounded bec my gifts did not prepare me for this total lack of vulnerability. My gifts are all abt my vulnerability, my sensitivity & ability to self-define myself in a world that had already reduced me to a prop.
Every script, every role, every director’s vision that I passed on was not aligned w/the story I was put here to tell. That’s a lot of passes.
What else was I to expect? I grew up in a world where my family taught me to pack away that delicate weaver of pain into light & instead arm myself for solitary warfare in which there were no supports & no possibility of thriving, but rather surviving by any means neccessary.
I became an actor to rewrite this story into one in which I could be complicated, unexpected, vulnerable & expect to be cared for, supported & cherished. I call this living in the expectation of good
It was hard work which eventually led me to first producing, then writing & then ultimately acting very rarely bec the stories I wanted to tell were not ones that anyone was writing abt. & when I wrote it, no one cared enough to produce it.
Bec there’s no hype, no heat around stories that are complicated, layered & different from the current conversation. Women who are innately powerful by virtue of their vulnerability. Women who understand that placing your self-care & healing before money, attention, external approval & caring more for others than yourself is part of ur journey to living out your life’s purpose.
The story that is being told was one in which the woman was losing or fighting for scraps of her humanity. The stories being told were of people whose lives were never expected to work out & by happen chance they caught a break but through no agency of their own.
(to be contd next week)
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April Yvette Thompson