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I Write What Comes Up in My Body: Robbie McCauley's Theatre

Leticia Ridley: Welcome to Daughters of Lorraine, a podcast from your friendly neighborhood Black feminists, exploring the legacies, present, and futures of Black theatre. We are your hosts, Leticia Ridley—

Jordan Ealey: —and Jordan Ealey. On this podcast produced for HowlRound Theatre Commons, a free and open platform for theatremakers worldwide, we discuss Black theatre history; conduct interviews with local and national Black theatre artists, scholars, and practitioners; and discuss plays by Black playwrights that have our minds buzzing.

Leticia: On May 20, 2021, news broke that Black theatre luminary Robbie McCauley has passed away in Silver Spring, Maryland. McCauley was born in Norfolk, Virginia on July 14, 1942 to Robert and Alice McCauley. After childhood spent in Washington, DC and Georgia, she earned a BA from Howard University and went on to receive her masters from New York University. McCauley’s theatre career began when she was an apprentice at the Negro Ensemble Company. From then on, she experienced a storied career, which took her from performing on Broadway and in Ntozake Shange’s for colored girls, to writing and performing in her own plays, including the Obie Award-winning play, Sally’s Rape. McCauley also became the first Black faculty member to receive tenure at Emerson College without filing a discrimination suit.

Jordan: McCauley’s signature aesthetic and creative vision laid the groundwork for experimental Black feminist performance. Her willingness to tackle taboo and uncomfortable subject matter was courageous, rightfully earning theatre artist Daniel Alexander Jones’s contingent that she was, “the bravest artist I ever met.” Today’s episode is dedicated to examining McCauley’s unparalleled artistic career. We discuss her path as well as a few of her well-known plays and pay homage to this pioneer in experimental Black feminist solo performance.

Hello, this is Jordan Ealey here and I wanted to provide a content warning for this upcoming episode, which discusses instances of sexual assault and bodily harm. Please take care of yourself when engaging with this material. Thank you so much, and we hope you enjoy this episode of Daughters of Lorraine.

Leticia: Welcome back to Daughters of Lorraine. I am Leticia Ridley—

Jordan: —and I am Jordan Ealey.

Leticia: We are, as Jordan likes to say often, so excited for this episode because we get to discuss the luminary, Robbie McCauley—Black theatre legend, solo performer, playwright, actor, director—and we are so honored that we get to discuss her life, legacy, and her work and her impact on Black theatre today.

Jordan: Absolutely, yes. We’ve been thinking a lot lately about in the past couple of years, we’ve just lost so many of our Black theatre legends. I mean, from Robbie McCauley to Micki Grant to, most recently, Mary Alice and Douglas Turner Ward. Just so many of our ancestors and our elders are transitioning. We really want to spend more time looking at their lives and their careers, and also trying to pale homage to them in only the way in which we can here on Daughters of Lorraine, which is that looking at their life and their work. Today is on, as Leticia said, Robbie McCauley.

Leticia, when did you first hear the name Robbie McCauley? When did you encounter her work and how do you feel like it kind of stayed with you?

Leticia: I will say I am a bit embarrassed to admit that Robbie McCauley didn’t come into my view until graduate school when I was reading Harvey Young’s Embodying Black Experience where he has a chapter talking about Robbie McCauley’s award-winning play Sally’s Rape. That was the first time that I encountered her work which made me want to sort of dive a bit deeper. I’m glad we had the opportunity today to do the research prior to this episode and take a moment to really think about her vision of Black theatre, of solo performance, of Black feminist solo performance, and the impact of that.

I think what I really appreciate about Robbie McCauley’s legacy is that I was watching some interview interviews of her prior to the recording of this episode, and one thing that really stuck with me is that she said her work in the theatre was invested in creating a dialogue. She says, “Dialogue is an act.” You really see that with something like Sally’s Rape where there is this dialogue with audience, with performer and this intention to sort of collapse these two sort of divisions. Not in the sense of like I’m addressing the audience, direct addressing, but really actually creating space within the actual play to have this sort of improvised dialogue that I really, really appreciate. It really had me thinking about: What are these opportunities for that to happen? Not in a separate talkback after a show but actually in the theatre process; in the actual theatre show. And what potentially can we activate if we shift our way that we approach dialogue in the theatre?

Jordan: Yeah, absolutely. I feel like I encountered her work also in graduate school but actually not in a theatre class. I actually first encountered Robin McCauley’s work in a chapter in Demonic Grounds by Katherine McKittrick. Katherine McKittrick, in that book, she’s a cultural geographer so she looks at the ways—not sort of traditional geography like just looking at location and stuff like that—but really thinking about geography as being intimately tied up in colonial processes and cultural work, right? Ideologies are shaping how we understand geography.

She looks at materials that are a part of shaping this sort of cultural history, and one of them is the auction block. In that book—in that chapter specifically—she looks at how McCauley uses the auction block to confront this white supremacist, patriarchal history that has subjugated Black women’s embodiment. One, I love that book, but also I loved that particular chapter because it made me think about, like you said when you’re talking about dialogue, Leticia, it made me think about how these materials hold history and how within the theatre we can repurpose or reuse or employ these materials to be that kind of confrontational dramaturgical strategy or sort of performance strategy to get people to connect what we are seeing today to what has happened in the past.

In reading Sally’s Rape, I was very conscientious of that particular thing, and something that Robbie McCauley also says in the particular piece that you are quoting from, which is from—we’ve talked about this anthology before in this podcast—Moon Marked and Touched by Sun, which is edited by Sydné Mahone. [I] encourage you all to read that particular anthology. Within that anthology, which includes a published version of Sally’s Rape, before that play there’s an essay that Robbie McCauley writes about where she writes about her own aesthetic. When she talks about dialogue being an act, it’s kind of in this response to something that she had been questioning in her career about, “Well, what am I really?” I’m doing quotation marks. You guys can’t see it, but I’m doing quotation marks.

“What are you really doing,” is the question she would get asked a lot when people would see Sally’s Rape is like, “What’s after this?” Okay, there’s theatre, and then what’s after this? In that essay she talks about how doing this is doing something. Having the conversation, putting this on stage, actually making people confront this history right in front of them is just as important as something else that is outside of the play. I found that really interesting. I don’t know, Leticia, do you have anything you want to add to that?

Leticia: I’m intrigued by how we frame the work of theatre and how Robbie McCauley was framing her own sort of doing—the act of performing, of writing, of actually staging something—as doing something. I tend to agree with her that theatre is an act just as dialogue is an act. Recently when we had the pleasure to interview Dominique Morriseau at the ATHE Conference, one of the things that she said to us as a sidebar before we did the larger conversation was sometimes we’re so interested in getting beyond dialogue because we’re like, “You gotta do something, you gotta do something,” but Dominique was like, “But dialogue is actually a very crucial step.”

It aligns with Robbie McCauley’s imposition to say that dialogue is an act—that we are actually doing something, and that theatre is engaging in that dialogue. In that similar essay that you just mentioned, I think we can see this sort of dialogue, this sort of switch—and this is right up your alley, Jordan—is rooting that in something like jazz or music or Black music. This sort of jazz aesthetic that allows for improvisation, dialogue between instruments. I think we really see that in something like Sally’s Rape. If you’ve never encountered the script before, there’s these moments where it just gives you, like, “This is an improvised conversation with the audience that should happen here,” and it’s really up to the actors to actually genuinely engage the audience in this improvised dialogue about some really serious topics.

I wish that more theatre would approach these conversations in that way. I think there’s just something really powerful about confronting it head-on and really thinking about what happens when we don’t script everything in the theatre. Not in like, oh, stuff is going to happen in the theatre because a light doesn’t work or someone doesn’t enter at the same time, but what happens when that improvisation is baked into the very root of what we’re trying to produce.

Jordan: Yeah, and I think that’s really important what you’re saying about the work of dialogue and the work of improvisation and the work of music. I think, I’m really, again, it reminds me of that episode we did with Addae—that was our second episode of this season for those who want to revisit that—when Addae talks about how he wants to see Black theatre be as complex and as nuanced as Black music. I definitely feel like Sally’s Rape is that, right? It is thinking about the complexities and the contradictions and the nuances that come with something like jazz.

Because if you look at jazz—I wouldn’t call myself necessarily a jazz aficionado. I feel like I’m pretty on-the-surface when it comes to jazz musicians, and I know the big ones: Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Duke Ellington, et cetera, et cetera. But I think of a lot about Pearl Cleage’s essay, “Mad at Miles,” where she talks about Miles Davis’s abuse and how so many people are not willing to kind of confront that; I think about that because they love the music so much.

And I think something about Robbie McCauley’s employment of something like jazz is thinking about those nuances, right? These contradictions that come with music. And so, the central relationship within Sally’s Rape is between Robbie McCauley and Jeannie Hutchins, who are sort of co-performing this piece together. And what I find interesting is how they don’t shy away from the racial tensions between them, the ways that—Robbie McCauley says the dialogue is an act, but she doesn’t romanticize language in that play. She says lines such as, I’m not quoting directly, but she says lines such as, “I can’t win in this language,” or “I can’t express myself in this language,” versus Jeannie Hutchins who is white and saying things such as, “I want to win,” or focusing on the kind of competition piece of who is most oppressed or, “How can I also make my own hurt and harm known to people?”

So, I just think that it’s something that’s very fascinating about this piece that you go into it thinking it’s going to be this kind of straightforward telling of Robbie McCauley’s history, since it is inspired by her great-grandmother’s experiences. But what you get is something that is a lot more about confrontation, bravery, and also implicating the audience within their own role in how they view this work, which is a larger conversation about how people are implicated in patriarchal white supremacist history.

Leticia: Yeah. One of the things I want to pick up that you mentioned was you mentioned that in Sally’s Rape, there is this use of sort of like, “I can’t win in this language,” and I think that perfectly aligns with Robbie McCauley seeing the use of the body as sort of central to her performance praxis. And there was an article that was actually posted on HowlRound—shout out to HowlRound—by Tara Brooke Watkins called “Transcending Theatre: My Time with Robbie McCauley” and in this particular essay, she shares that Robbie McCauley shared with her, this is a direct quote, “I write what comes up in my body.” And I thought that was a very vital and important component of what we think of Robbie McCauley’s performance aesthetic and not just drama aesthetic because she is a performing artist in the larger sense of the word.

But thinking about the role of the body and movement, I was watching the memorial service and concert dedicated to Robbie McCauley’s life and one of the speakers shared that she went to go see for colored girls and Robbie McCauley was on because she was a swing at that time. And she talks about how she was doing the monologue, “You almost walked off with all my stuff.” And she shared with Robbie, “Oh, I just loved the way that you were moving your body. Your movement vocabulary really captured me. The choreography was so, so wonderful.” And then Robbie was like, “There’s no choreography in that piece.” And she’s like, “What do you mean there’s no choreography?” And she was like, “Oh, I had to feel it in my body, in the words. And that was all me improvising movement.” Which I thought was really fascinating to sort of think about Robbie McCauley’s use of the body as central to what happens onstage but also to think about the role of the body within Black theatre, specifically by Black women.

If we even go back to when we were talking about Ntozake Shange this season, right? That is central component of her aesthetic, right? So it does not surprise me that these two artists’ paths’ crossed. I’m always intrigued and interested in where the body shows up in theatre and performance—beyond just we have bodies and we’re performing, but what is the role that bodies play to what happens onstage or the aesthetics in which we’re coming from or the traditions, or how it shapes something as big and wide and vast as something like Black theatre?

Jordan: Yeah, it actually reminds me of this concept developed by Brittney Cooper about embodied discourse, right? And she identifies it as a specific intellectual move that Black women thinkers are employing their body to confront something about history, about culture. And I would say that Robbie McCauley is doing that, particularly in her work, and she’s using her body to intricately shape the way that her art is confronting those very violent past and present that Black women are going through. And even something that you say in terms of how she uses her body about writing, what comes through her body, in that essay from Moon Marked, she talks about her aesthetic as content as aesthetic. And she says it is, “the way I shape my work is to listen to what is going on. And of course, listen is a big word. I’m looking, I’m smelling, I’m tasting, I’m touching, and I value that. This is what most artists do, but I continually synthesize myself to find in it, those elements that I can personalize and put in my work.”

So, this focus on the senses, right? The touch, the taste, the smell of how all these elements are coming together in her work is also a part of that sort of embodied approach to writing, right? And I also think it kind of decenters just the act of writing, right? The act of typing out something, the act of writing something in a journal or typing something on a computer. My body is writing. My body is writing through the senses, is writing through smelling. It’s writing through listening; it’s writing through tasting. And it’s just such an amazing way of thinking about her creative approach to making these materials. And I also want to highlight too, that Robbie McCauley, I think her being attached to so many different Black theatre kind of places is really important. So for example, she got her start in professional theatre through the Negro Ensemble Company.

Leticia: Yeah, definitely. We know the sort of legend of the Negro Ensemble Company and the artists that have walked through that institution that we know today. To think about this sort of commitment to Black theatre institutions, I think is really important when we think about Black theatre largely. But we think about, like you said, Robbie’s specific commitment to ensuring—or to at least partnering with—these Black theatre institutions and thinking about the Negro Ensemble Company which, in its really early heydays when they got that check from Ford, was thinking about: How do we sort of pour into other Black theatre artists? So having an apprentice program that, if I am remembering correctly, was free for folks to join, allowed Robbie McCauley to enter into theatre professionally.

In an interview that I was listening to in preparation for this episode, Robbie McCauley frames it as, “I got into theatre because I literally walked through the back door.” And she talks about how she was at Howard, she had a different major, and there was this door open to the theatre. And she just went in there and she’s like, “What’s this?” And she literally ended up onstage during some sort of rehearsal process, and the director of the piece was like, “What are you doing? Why are you here?” And she responded, and he was like, “Oh, you have a great voice. You’re casted in this. You’re going to lead the chorus for Medea.” That’s what it was.

And that’s at Howard, right? Another Black institution, very storied history within Black theatre. We think about the importance of Black theatre institutions but also Robbie McCauley being nurtured in these spaces is really actually really vital to sort of, I think I would argue, her sort of aesthetic; the way that she sort of approached her work. And then we see something like her collaboration in the late 1980s with Laurie Carlos and Jessica Hagedorn to form Thought Music, which was a performance art group. And one of their most known works is Teeny Town, which looked at race and popular culture through the format of something like the minstrel show, and if we think about Robbie McCauley’s connection to Negro Ensemble company, we would think of something like Day of Absence, right?

Jordan: Or even spell #7 by Ntozake Shange.

Leticia: Yeah. Or spell #7. So we see these sort of influences, these aesthetic connections. And she specifically called what they did “jazz theatre,” right? So we go back to this harping of jazz and how she’d sort of seen jazz as at least a way to sort of understand the theatre work that she was interested in doing. So let’s focus, Jordan, a bit on Sally’s Rape. We’ve talked about it a bit, but I was interested in just getting your thoughts about the name of the actual piece. Because if you have not encountered this piece, you might think, Well, is a rape going to happen in the actual play? Spoil alert: it does not. And it also signals to a particular sort of well-known history and legacy of enslavement with Sally Hemings. So, what do you think of this naming by Robbie McCauley?

Jordan: It’s a provocative name for sure. I mean, it gets your attention. And I think something like performance art as a practice is invested in that—I won’t say shock value because I feel like that cheapens it—but it’s in your face, right? It’s supposed to grab your attention. It’s supposed to be a space where you are uncomfortable, and I think that with this particular name, I think it refers to something like, yes, the actual act that happened to her ancestor but also the general ways in which this woman has been violated and Black women have and continue to be violated.

It’s like, this is not just an act that is isolated to this one thing that happened to Robbie McCauley’s ancestor, but something that is ongoing; something that has reverberations for today’s work. And if I’m not mistaken, she performed this naked, or at least part of it was performed where Robbie McCauley was naked. And I think that having to confront that kind of naked truth—one, the vulnerability of her putting her literal body on the line for this. But also, the ways in which you as viewers, you as readers, you as audience members, has to sit there for forty-five to fifty minutes or an hour and look at this Black woman’s naked body telling you the uncomfortable but very real truth about what has happened to her family and what continues to haunt her own body to this day, is something that’s extremely powerful and brave and courageous.

And I don’t know, I mean, correct me if I’m wrong listeners, and even you Leticia, but I don’t know that kind of work is being as produced today. When we think about the power of that kind of performance art or feminist performance art—yeah, I don’t know. There’s something so freeing about the controversy of this piece, but that’s not predicated upon her denigration. But it’s a smart and incisive and insurgent look at history but it doesn’t... I mean, I’m sure there’s a cost. There’s a cost for having to perform that labor all the time but it doesn’t come at... I don’t know how to describe it, what I’m trying to say, but it’s not like... Yeah, I don’t know. It’s not a direct violation every single night, but it’s like, there’s an agency in the way that she’s able to choose how to tell this horrific history.

Leticia: Yeah, definitely. When you were speaking, the two things that came to mind was, I really thought about Suzan-Lori Parks’s play Venus, and I’ve done some work on that in my dissertation, around spectatorship, about Black women’s availability of their body. And I’m thinking that connection was just really fresh in my mind of: Okay, what does it mean that Robbie McCauley is nodding to this history in a similar way that Suzan-Lori Parks was nodding to this history in Venus? And potentially, I would even say the longer legacies of that within the theatre itself. And then I thought about our conversation with Pearl Cleage, where we talked about her most recent work.

Jordan: Angry, Raucous, and Shamelessly Gorgeous?

Leticia: Yes. And specifically, one of the characters in that performing naked—so this idea of literally baring your body. I also see your point about the agency in, “I get to decide how this history is told. I get to decide the way that I’m gonna nod to these legacies and these histories.” And also thinking about the fraught-ness of that very thing. I think in that language that you were trying to get to, is that you’re not trying to say that this is wholly liberatory. At the end of the day, Robbie McCauley is still standing on stage on a makeshift auction block where her co-star is yelling, “Bid ‘em in,” to the audience and trying to get the audience to participate in this sort of faux slave auction in a contemporary moment. But at the same time, there is a commentary that Robbie McCauley is able to make, and also take control of, in this format that I think is really intriguing.

And it’s, at least from the scholarship that I read on specifically Sally’s Rape, that is often the most provocative and most talked about moment of the piece. And I think there is just a really sort of finesse that Robbie McCauley has in this particular piece of leading us to this moment. And then there’s this moment of inversion that is supposed to happen where her co-star, who is a white woman, is supposed to also be on this auction block. If I remember correctly, the stage direction is Robbie is probing her to like, “Okay, it’s your turn, get naked,” and I don’t think she does. I think the stage direction is she pulls down a strap of her dress and that is as far as it goes. So I think that also juxtaposition really raises longer legacies about enslavement but also the relationship with Black women and white women—and how they’re framed within the context of the theatre, of history, of relationship with one another—that raises larger questions. And I think Sally’s Rape is one of those works that still resonate today, and I would love to see it in rep with something like Venus or with Pearl Cleage’s work. I think that—

Jordan: Or even Fairview.

Leticia: Or even Fairview. So it’s really resonating with me, at least some of the works that we’ve talked about or we’ve seen together, around this highlighting of spectatorship; the role of the watcher or the audience. And Robbie McCauley, I think, is trying to do something with dialogue specifically where you’re going to see this happen onstage, and we’re going to talk about what just happened. And it’s not going to be like, “I’m asking this very specific question all at the same time,” but no—we’re going to try to have a genuine conversation that raises, for me, an intriguing rabbit hole to travel down when we think about: What is the theatre actually doing with Black women’s bodies?

Jordan: That is a continual question: What role does theatre have in continuing to perpetuate some of these bodily horrors to happen to Black women? And how can we as theatremakers, theatre scholars, theatregoers, be conscientious to what we’re asking Black women to do when they step onto stage. I mean, there have been many times where I’ve felt that when I’ve watched particular works in the theatres, “Sure, it was interesting, but wow. What a lot of labor you put on these Black women performers.” Or like, “Man, I wonder what the Black women on the creative team thought about this. Man, I wonder how other Black women or Black non-cis men in the audience think about this particular whatever, whatever.” And so I am curious about it.

And I think also with the bravery that comes with this work, I think hearkens back to what you said earlier about the importance of Black theatre institutions. I think that putting more of an investment in these spaces that are made by Black people, for Black people, is really important to developing this kind of conscientious, yet ethical, yet brave, yet controversial, yet artistically stimulating, work that is not so predicated upon, “Okay, how can you talk about race? Big question mark. But rather: How do we make work that is theoretically and creatively interesting about the Black experience globally? And I think that comes from being trained somewhere like Howard, being trained with the Negro Ensemble Company.

I’d love to see more work that is coming out of these Black institutions because I think it’s a great compliment to all of the other work that comes from other institutions that are not necessarily focused only on Black theatre. But uplifting those institutions is really important, I think to both of us, because they’re the ones that were always invested in Black theatre artists before it became cool or before it became socially acceptable. But that no—we’ve always been here to invest in our own communities. And so, I think we don’t get a Robbie McCauley if we don’t have these spaces that were invested in Black theatre as an actual, legitimate art form.

Leticia: One of the buzzwords that really jumped out when you were speaking to me was this notion of community that I think is also crucial to Robbie McCauley’s work. If we look at some of her other work such as her trilogy that has the plays: Mississippi Freedom, which is the first of the trilogy that Robbie created in the 1990s, that is really focused on highlighting race relations in the United States during the sixties and seventies; or Turf, which is the second play in the trilogy, which was centered around the Boston school busing controversy; or the last play in the trilogy, The Other Weapon, which is telling the story of the Black Panther Party in LA and really thinking about the other weapon that they used besides guns, was literally community organizing. I think that’s also a crucial component of her work, is to, one, stage these communities but also build community through the actual very act of her focus of her subjects, but also the actual act of performing theatre; what community organizing can also happen or what sort of community conversations can be engendered from her work.

Jordan: Right. Exactly. And even her most recent—I believe her most recent—work was Sugar, which again, used this kind of convention that she uses in Sally’s Rape to connect the personal to the political, which is: She looks at her own experience of being diagnosed with diabetes, and connecting that to enslavement and using the image of the sugar cane to do that. And it reminds me of something—that Kara Walker art piece, the sugar baby piece, where this large, I don’t know, figure of this Black woman is made entirely out of sugar. And looking at how you connect those histories. So there’s a free article there for somebody.

Leticia: Specifically with Sugar, I was reading that Robbie McCauley would have to check her blood sugar—

Jordan: Yes.

Leticia: —when she was performing every night. So sometimes she would check her blood sugar and it would be low, so she would have to eat something. Or she would check it and she’d be like, “Oh, it’s good,” so the improvisation of what’s going to happen because I, literally as a performer who has diabetes, have to be conscientious about my blood sugar.

Jordan: And I think that really just proves to us how much Robbie McCauley’s work was so forward-thinking, so ahead of its time. I mean, I think we’ve said that about so many of the Black women artists that we’ve talked about, is that... I remember one of my mentors, Julius Fleming, saying, “Black feminism’s always slightly ahead of the beat,” or something like that. And I would say that Robbie McCauley is always slightly ahead of the beat. I think her work is such [an] instruction to how you can use theatre as a productive place to explore the things that really scare you, the things that you’re fearful of. I think as a dramaturg—and even as a playwright but more so as a dramaturg—I feel like I talk to the artists I work with to be like, “Just do the thing that makes you scared.” I’m not going to speak for Robbie McCauley to say that she was scared to say any of this, but I do think that in talking about these very controversial and courageous topics in the way that she did, takes a large amount of bravery that I hope that we continue to have in stories we tell.

Leticia: Definitely so. And since this is our last episode of the season, I’m just also reflecting on our season and thinking about the distinct pleasure and honor we’ve had to really revisit some of, like you said, our Black theatre elders who have transitioned and their work and what they left behind—and what revisiting their work can actually offer us in our now and their instructions that they left us to continue to move forward. Ntozake Shange, Micki Grant, Robbie McCauley, and then also the playwrights and artistic directors and dramaturgs; we had the chance to speak to Addae Moon, Pearl Cleage, Lisa B. Thompson. I’m just thinking about the longer lineages that we have within Black theatre and how we carry the mantle, and we pass it on for something more.

So, I’m just in a really reflective mood about our season and really, really glad that we had the opportunity to—I don’t want to say uplift these voices because these voices are already… They don’t need help from Daughters of Lorraine. But just—

Jordan: —to be in conversation with people, right? To foster this intergenerational and cross-temporal dialogues, whether it’s: looking at older works or reading older plays like we did in a reproductive justice episode; looking at lynching dramas and plays from the 1950s and ’60s and ’90s; and then to now, fostering conversations with someone like Pearl Cleage, who is one of our living legends, or even Dominique Morriseau, who is also a living legend, who is continuing to actively create. And Lisa B. Thompson—all of these other contemporary folks who are still alive. I think that is one of the things that we are trying to do is pay homage to the past but also give Black people their flowers, their accolades, their kudos, while they are still here and actively making work.

Leticia: Yes, and with that, let’s shift over to our final reading list of the season.

Jordan: You can’t see me, but I’m wiping away the tears from my eyes because I can’t believe the season’s over.

Leticia: Yes. Yes. For our plays, we just want to sort of uplift Robbie McCauley’s work. So again, Sally’s Rape, the three plays of the trilogy that she wrote—Mississippi Freedom, Turf, and The Other Weapon—and then also Sugar. Please, please, please read these plays, stage these plays, teach these plays, and then also solo/Black/woman, which is a sort of larger anthology of Black women solo performers that was edited by E. Patrick Johnson and Ramón Rivera-Severa. And then for books and articles, what do we have, Jordan?

Jordan: Yeah. And I also wanted to say in solo/Black/woman, there is... Robbie McCauley is included in that anthology as well as a video of her performing—I believe it’s Sugar in that work. So get that book so you can see her actually do her thing.

But for books, we have three books for you all. So, Embodying Black Experience by Harvey Young. We also have Demonic Grounds: Black Women and the Cartographies of Struggle by Katherine McKittrick. Please read both of those books. They are fantastic and they also include chapters on, specifically, Sally’s Rape.

And then there is a forthcoming book that we wanted to highlight. Neither of us have gotten to read this book, but we know it’s going to be an invaluable resource to thinking about Robbie McCauley’s work, and it’s called The Struggle Continues: Robbie McCauley’s Scripts, Essays, and Reflections, and that’s edited by Alisa Solomon, Elin Diamond, and Cynthia Carr. And that will be released in November 2022. So, we’re looking forward to reading that work and for her work to be immortalized and anthologized so that everyone can continue to engage her.

Leticia: Yes, definitely. And before we sign off for the final time this season, we have a few announcements that we want to make. We have merchandise! Folks reaching out to us asking like, “Hey, we want some merch.” Please go to our Twitter page for that. We have some shirts, some sweaters, and we’re looking to get some enamel pins and some mugs and stuff like that. So, if you are interested in getting some Daughters of Lorraine merch, go to our Twitter page, there’s a link where you can get some. And then also just a sort of larger announcement that Daughters of Lorraine would love to partner with your theatre, with your university. Please, please, please reach out to us because we are interested in continuing this conversation and really thinking about how we as a community can continue to grow but also continue to sort of shed light on Black theatre, both past, present, and future.

Jordan: Absolutely. Everything Leticia has said. Thank you all so much for joining us this season. We are so thrilled with the support that we’ve gotten from universities; from theatres; from current theatre artists and practitioners and scholars and educators. And we just love this little community we’ve been able to make with this podcast, so we thank you so much. And we are looking forward to coming back for another season, so hit us up and listen to our other episodes. And be in our DMs trying to talk about Black theatre because that’s what we love to do.

Leticia: Yes. Bye.

This has been another episode of Daughters of Lorraine. We’re your hosts, Leticia Ridley—

Jordan: —and Jordan Ealey. This is our last episode of season three. Thank you all so much for joining us for this incredible season. We’re taking a short break before we return with more content. But in the meantime, if you’re looking to connect with us, please follow us on Twitter @dolorrainepod. That’s P-O-D. You can also email us at [email protected] for further contact.

Leticia: The Daughters of Lorraine podcast is supported by HowlRound Theatre Commons, a free and open platform for theatremakers worldwide. It’s available on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, and howlround.com. If you are looking for the podcast on iTunes, Google Play, or Spotify, you’ll want to search and subscribe to HowlRound Podcasts.

Jordan: If you loved this podcast, post a rating, and write a review on those platforms. This helps other people find us. You can also find a transcript for this episode along with a lot of other progressive and disruptive content on howlround.com.

Have an idea for an exciting podcast, essay, or TV event that the theatre community needs to hear? Visit howlround.com and submit your ideas to the commons.

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Thoughts from the curators

Hosted by two doctoral theatre students, Jordan Ealey and Leticia Ridley, Daughters' of Lorraine Podcast features reviews of Black theatre productions (mainly in the DC/Baltimore area), current national conversations around, within, and about Black theatre, academic discussions concerning Black theatre, recommendations on Black theatre scripts, and interviews with Black theatre artists. This podcast centers and privileges the narratives of Black theatremakers, scholars, and audiences while also underscoring the need for understanding the influence of Black theatre on the American theatre landscape.

Daughters of Lorraine Podcast


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Thank you for another terrific episode, in a fantastic season! I have learned so much from listening to your podcasts, and just added this one to my fall syllabus. Gratitude to you both for sharing your expertise on this open-source platform.

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