Thursday, October 4, 2018

Urbanite Theatre's Modern Works Festival: The Space In Between by Mercedes White

Playwright Mercedes White
Mercedes White is a Chicago-based actor and playwright. Like many arts professionals, she doesn't have a lot of discretionary income. White told me she had $50 to her name when she heard about Urbanite Theatre's Modern Works Festival. The entry fee to have her play considered for inclusion in the Festival was $20. But her instincts told her that submitting her work was the right thing to do. And it was. The Space In Between was one of three plays selected for the Festival from over 100 submissions.

The Space In Between is a love story between Cameron, an Afro-Latina woman, and Samirah, a Muslim woman who moves in upstairs from Cameron. The title of the play might seem to refer to the physical space between the two women--complete with less than soundproof floorboards. But White's intention is of course deeper than that. "There's so much left unsaid in the space in between," she told me. "Someone might say 'cool' when they actually mean 'I'm uncomfortable with that' or 'yes, we're friends' when they want to say 'I love you.'"

Inspiration for the play struck when White was acting in a production of Lines, a cross-cultural show written collaboratively by five women of color. White, who is half Mexican, half African-American, shared a scene with a half Pakistani, half African-American woman.

"There was kind of a gay vibe going on between us," White recalled. She and her fellow actor mused about the significance of the scene in the show. As they discussed it, she realized the topic was worthy of an entire play.

The Space In Between Team -- absent Olivia
White sat down in May and wrote The Space In Between in two weeks. Before she arrived at Urbanite, she had never heard her play read out loud.

In addition to the couple-to-be, the characters include Cameron's niece Andrea, a sassy eleven year old who is wise beyond her years, and Shaheed, Samirah's mother.

White understands the inclusion of a child in the play might adversely affect its producibility. As one audience member pointed out in a talkback, you'd have to cast multiple young actors in the role for an eight show a week schedule.

But the young playwright is willing to role the dice on that potential issue. The intergenerational aspect of the play is a crucial part of the story she wanted to tell.

Olivia Luera appeared as Andrea
"I wanted there to be a space where women of all ages can see themselves in one play," she said. "It's important for people who don't usually come to the theater to be represented."

She also noted that Andrea brings a different energy into the room. She hasn't lived long enough to become jaded so can provide a voice of reason.

The play's subtitle is "For the fairy tale ending we thought never existed." Thanks to White for sharing her message that people can move beyond their differences if they're willing to take the time to get to know one another. Now if we could just figure out a way to get that message of acceptance out into the wider world....

1 comment:

  1. I am so sorry that I am going to miss this! A message for out times. I do like the playwright's rationale for including the child in the cast.


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