Let Me Try to Say IT’S NOT TOO LATE Nov 19, 2016
by Michelle Peñaloza
I just got home from watching Markeith Wiley’s IT’S NOT TOO LATE and my mind is swimming with reactions to the show and to the post-show Q&A—
“Wokeness” especially in light of the recent election results is of a fashion at this point—a moral imperative as performance. Ally theatre. A safety-pin. A t-shirt. A tote-bag. All signals that are meant to convey: I will not laugh at the wrong jokes. I will not say the wrong thing. I will not be that person. I am not a bad person.
What does “wokeness” mean in Seattle? What does being an ally mean in Seattle?
Humor, laughter—these are intimate currencies. Who can laugh, whose laughter can wound, whose laughter holds power, whose laughter creates distance, whose laughter is un/knowable, who laughs through their power/lessness, who laughs for survival, whose laughter understands absurdity, whose laughter is part of the creation and dissemination of that same absurdity—IT’S NOT TOO LATE interrogates the baseness and baselines of humor to interrogate the baseness and baselines of whose reality we’re talking about. The reality of who is human to whom and when and how.
Or. Let me try to say it more plain: IT’S NOT TOO LATE felt to me like a lens directed toward/meant for a white audience to FEEL one miniscule sliver of the unsafe gaze/space/country of whiteness, which people of color feel all the time. IT’S NOT TO LATE felt like an enacting or manifestation of the unsafe and overwhelming and exhausting navigations of whiteness, a window into the un-ending work that people of color do and excel in, in order to survive. More specifically, the work that black people must do in order to continually prevail in the assertion of their humanity.
Random notes I scribbled in the dark upon my program:
-does most of the audience not know who Ginuwine is?
-is the audience laughter fake or real? are there plants in the audience?
-the weight of the injury of performance, the constant performance of safety to keep whiteness comfortable and safe
-audience complicity, audience participation, hierarchy of understanding(s)
-omg this Jamie Foxx cell phone plan commercial right now = a canny choice
-the commodification of blackness—entertainers sans humanity
-how many folks here have seen tutting before?
-the soundtrack of commercial breaks = the way capitalism smooths over our everyday
-the interchangeability of black lives and black bodies / the lack of humanity in the absence of individuality
-the uselessness of white tears, the business as usual reset
-DJ White Tears
Being a non-black person of color in this audience was strange for me. “Why is it always about black and white?” an audience member asked. Honestly, I don’t remember the answer that Dushawn/Markeith gave and, ultimately, I don’t believe it matters in terms of my processing IT’S NOT TOO LATE. The whole night made me think of the idea that, when talking about race in the United States, anti-black racism is the fulcrum of white supremacy. In order to witness/acknowledge/understand/address/dismantle white supremacy, the work begins with acknowledging the anti-black racism essential to its function.
I have tremendous respect and great empathy for the physical, psychological, and emotional energy that creating and enacting this show must demand from the performers each night—especially upon the star and the cast members of color. Especially in Seattle. Especially at On the Boards.
On The Boards is a specific space which often attracts and enacts a specific kind of audience. Or. Let me try to say it another way: I wonder how many people in the audience went home to Google—Solange, Usher, Paul Mooney.
IT’S NOT TOO LATE is full of canny moments—in symbolism, in comic timing, in choreography—that interrogate anti-black racism and hone in, with great specificity, on the refractions of anti-black racism in Seattle, each saying—Yes, here. Yes, you. Now, what the hell are you going to do?