(Written February 27, 2011, revised August 23, 2011)
Notes on The Manipulated Image, an experimental jazz play by Sharon Lia Robinson
(The Manipulated Image was written during 1979-1982).
In 1959, in her novel, A Spy In The House of Love, Anais Nin explores the complexity of an interracial romantic encounter. My journey in writing The Manipulated Image is also the journey of a woman artist who wants to know more and to experience life more intensely.
I felt compelled to write The Manipulated Image, (about an interracial relationship between a Black-American man who is a photographer and a Renoiresque Jewish-American woman). Even though I was possibly breaking a literary or cultural taboo, or being politically incorrect, at the time.
The script is a collage of poetry, monologue, songs and dialogue. It was written during 1979-1982. I admit I was wondering how this play would be perceived in the Black theatre community in Boston, Massachusetts.
I was a student of Professors Lynda and Jim Spruill, in the Theatre project of the Goddard-Cambridge Graduate Program in Social Change, for the academic year 1978-1978, in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
At that time, Lynda and Jim Spruill also developed also developed a ground-breaking Black theatre program at Northeastern University, New African Company.
From 1978-1986, while I lived in Somerville, Massachusetts, I continued to follow their work, learning a great deal from their perspectives and experience as African-Americans and theatre artists.
In the mid-1980’s I directed actors and musicians and we did a few performances of some of the scenes from The Manipulated Image, in The Living Room Coffee House in Cambridge and in the Cambridge Center for Adult Education. I also arranged for a full play reading at The Red Book Store in Cambridge, Massachusetts. At the time, several of my theatre friends enjoyed the play, which I call a jazz-play, since it was written for words, songs and jazz improvisation.
Additional notes on the play and how it was received by more theatre colleagues and an interracial audience during discussions following the performance are part of my Master’s Degree Final Report along with a version of the play (1984). My Final Report also includes a section of notes on Theatre As A Way To Portray Alternative Histories. So that was my focus in writing, performing and acting….to create roles that impacted life in a non-mainstream way.
A shorter version of the play, The Manipulated Image, about twenty seven pages, is also available by contacting the author. My preference is for the shorter version for future performances.
All material for this project will be eventually mailed to the author’s Radcliffe College archives as well, in the Schlesinger Library.
Notes on The Tainted City, a short story by Sharon Lia Robinson
(The Tainted City was written from 1978-1983)
The Tainted City, my novella, focuses on Luis, a Mexican-American male filmmaker and Felicia, a Renoiresque Jewish woman. The story takes place in Hollywood/Los Angeles, California. I was interested in writing about Luis because he was so dynamic and alluring to women, and also the tragedy of his lost film career. He believed he was blacklisted for being too outspoken in the Hollywood film community.
Felicia wants to feel glamorous and desired. Both Luis and Felicia want social acceptance in mainstream America. Yet both are outsiders. Luis feels the more prominent (Anglo) Hollywood filmmakers have prejudice toward his more exuberant personality. He sees his outspokenness as an ethnic trait they don’t understand.
Luis’ housemate, Hidalgo, makes anti-semitic remarks about Felicia, as a way to communicate his dislike for her. There is an undercurrent of anti-semitism in Hidalgo’s interaction with Felicia, and in his remarks to her and to Luis, although this is not the main focus of the story. Unfortunately, there does not seem to be an understanding, on the part of Hidalgo, regarding the kinship of marginalization between Felicia, (a Renoiresque Jewess outsider), and the two Hispanic men. On the surface, Felicia is more culturally able to blend into American society, yet, due to her personality and other factors, she is far from being accepted by middle class white society.
Hidalgo’s father had been a pachuco. The pachucos were early Mexican-American immigrants in the 1940’s. They were searching for roots and seeking ways to deal with their rootlessness. Like Felicia, Luis, and Hidalgo, the Pachucos had a need to create their own identity. This mention (of the pachucos) is also a valuable although brief aspect of the story. In his famous book of essays, The Labyrinth of Solitude, Octavio Paz wrote about the Pachucos and social marginalization.
Notes on Janine, the Samba Queen, a short story by Sharon Lia Robinson
(1985-a work in progress)
I was inspired by Janine’s (not her real name) ability to transform her appearance and become elegant and beautiful as a woman and as a dancer. Janine is a dark-skinned African-American and full-figured woman. In my short story, she attended samba and Middle Eastern dance classes. The other dance students looked in disbelief as the white Brasilian dance teacher fell for Janine.
Then, she began professionally performing samba and other dances with Beto, the teacher. There was, for example, a special dance celebration for the United Nations Day Parade, in New York City. When Janine was hired for bellydance parties, she was only chosen to work mainly in the Black community, due to racism and prejudice. The teacher/co-ordinator who booked the parties did not want to see Janine get hurt and face rejection.
Another, fairer-skinned, slender Black dancer was hired to dance more widely for white and mixed audiences at private parties and restaurants.
Janine’s day job was in a day care center, where she inspired children to dance and have fun. As a dancer, Janine wore elaborate wigs and sewed her own dance costumes. Although outside the mainstream, she never felt self-pity. I was inspired by her, in finding my own path as artist and dancer, to continue to dance and to create.
Her parents were supportive of her and that also gave her strength and courage to survive, despite racism and fatophobia.
Notes on Daniel, a short story by Sharon Lia Robinson
Daniel is a short story I wrote about a middle class Black man and a white woman, Miriam. Yet, she is also Jewish and Renoiresque. Miriam shows spiritual maturity and strength, I feel, in her refusal to become entangled in an affair that is non-committal, as Daniel has other priorities. Therefore, the woman in this story is different than the Caucasian women in the two other stories. Malka in The Manipulated Image and Felicia in The Tainted City, enter into relationships that are hurtful to them, in their search for love and acceptance. Miriam’s spiritual core protects her and teaches her about the reality of love and life and relationships.