Pearl Cleage responds to the question of why she writes by saying:
I’m able to take important ideas to a group of people, especially to oppressed people. And since I’m black and female, I’ve got two groups that I can talk to about that. That ability helps the people in those primary groups take more control of their lives, in ways that they probably couldn’t or wouldn’t if they were presented with these ideas in a more straightforward way.
I saw lots of productions of [my play] “Flyin’ West,” some wonderful and some bad, and the audience always liked it. They never came up to me afterwards and said, “Don’t you think that’s kind of rough, for her to poison this guy?” Nobody ever objected, because they hated him; he was beating a woman.
Now in real life, if I said, “Women should feed poison to guys who abuse them and bury them on the prairie and go to a dance and dance on their grave,” people would think that I was a terrible person. I know feminists who have said less radical stuff than that and been branded everything terrible that you can think of. Alice Walker has had to take a lot of abuse for “The Color Purple,” for saying these things happen. Ntozake Shange has taken horrible, horrible abuse that she still is suffering from for writing “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide /When the Rainbow Is Enuf”. . . I absolutely do believe that self-defense for women is critical in situations like that. If someone is going to beat you and your children to death, that you have the right to defend yourself shouldn’t even be a radical idea. It wouldn’t be a radical idea in any setting outside of people’s homes. So I can write a play and at least have the idea flicker by.
Alexis Greene is a theatre critic and author based in New York City. Currently she is writing a biography of the late off-Broadway producer Lucille Lortel.
From: WOMEN WHO WRITE PLAYS: INTERVIEWS WITH AMERICAN DRAMATISTS by Alexis Greene. Copyright 2000 by Alexis Greene. Reprinted with permission of Smith and Kraus.
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