HAMBONE is a generational play about four black men’s struggle for truth, their pain, healing, and renewal. It explores the cost of family dislocation and cultural alienation. The play is set in South Carolina in 1988. The Confederate flag still hangs from the state capitol, Jesse Jackson is making history as the first black man to run for President, and James Brown, the soul man, is in jail for drugs. Music and its children are reflecting the changing times and the rage that sits a breath away from imploding in on itself.
ABOUT THE PLAY: “This grown folk business” is a phrase I often heard in my childhood. As the years passed I understood for myself what that business was, but my interpretation was what I made of it. Some things I accepted, others may have been too painful. I was often confused and uncertain of which topics were taboo. What if things were explained to me early on? Who knows? Thus, what interests me most about HAMBONE is the idea of the suppression of the truth. “The truth got to come however it’s gonna come.” In every dark corner lies a secret with immeasurable patience. It is the moment when this secret is unleashed I find most intriguing. “The truth come out, and ain’t nothing the same no more.” Many of us are shackled by some suppressed truth that perhaps if revealed would bring more comfort than pain. After knowing a classmate for two years, he revealed to me that he was HIV positive. Maybe I didn’t notice anything missing before, but I know now when I look at him, I see a whole person. No longer does the truth have to be a burden between us. It is, instead, freedom. HAMBONE is an exploration of this idea and how painful it must be to live life under one truth, only to later discover that it never was the truth at all.
INSPIRATION: What has proven to be most challenging in writing this play is fighting against the very thing I considered to be my most prominent inspiration, theatre great August Wilson. There have been countless times when in my writing I have crossed out and rearranged dialogue in order to strip away what seems to me to be too Wilson-ish. Nonetheless, I met with Mr. Wilson for the first time in Valdez, Alaska, in the summer of 1998. After discussing with him my dilemma, his advice to me was to write whatever comes out, however it comes, then let the critics decide what they will. Taking this advice in stride I then sat down to write HAMBONE, creating only from the idea that I was relieved from this burden of fighting against the Wilson influence. As a result, I have developed this piece to pay homage to Mr. Wilson and to say thank you for the inspiration and support. I hope that in HAMBONE I have allowed all Wilson influences to surface and that God may use me as His instrument to inspire others, as He has used Mr. Wilson to inspire me.
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