For the past two years I have been attending plays all around my Miami, studying the theater’s voices. Miami is unusual in that the minority of people are white with English as a first language. I’ve been studying the audiences, too. There are four distinct audiences that financially support their culture’s representation in theater: white American older women, Latins, Hindustanis, and Russians. The immigrant groups are not afraid of the new, since they have chosen and succeeded in coming to a new home. The white women are not afraid of the new, they lived enough of life to know to be intrigued by difference. What these groups do wish for is the familiar within the new.
The subjects of interest to these groups do not lie the areas men like to write about–war, heroes, rejection of the mother. Instead they are interested in themes of coping with unfamiliar customs, issues of freedom, mother-daughter relationships, mother-oriented interactions with society, and romances. For instance, the Women’s Theater Project did a play about 2 female elephants that lived in an American zoo and had to be moved to another zoo though the elephants were afraid to go. Here we had two characters who had been thrust into a foreign land and were now being asked to undergo yet another drastic change. One of the elephants was young and had been ripped from her mother during her capture. This play, well done, was sold out at every performance. Part of its success, I think, was that it touched on so many themes of interest to South Florida audiences. I think stories that look at the world from women’s perspectives are more often stories that are new in view while maintaining a familiar core. They are stories that understand the heroic effort of getting up each day to face a world that is always, day in and day out, going to be just slanted a bit on the side of condesion and hostility towards you because you are not male (or not English speaking or not white or are white).
I want to give the new with a familiar base, that gentle familiar base we all first learned from our mothers, and so we may find our common ground. I want to choose my season so that Miami can continue to teach me rather than me assuming I am the one to teach the audience.