The Downtown Anthology
We Are Proud to Present a Presentation About the Herero of Namibia, Formerly Known as South West Africa, From the German Sudwestafrika, Between the Years 1884-1915
by Jackie Sibblies Drury
Available in The Downtown Anthology, edited by Morgan Gould and Erin Salvi
Open this anthology to any one of the six plays published within it, and you're in for a ride. The title of Jackie Sibblies Drury's piece caught my eye and I figured, hey, if someone has the chutzpah to write a play with a title that can barely fit on a playbill, that's the kind of show I want to see. The play follows an ensemble of six actors, their race and gender specific and purposeful, as they attempt to devise and present their “lecture” about the historical genocide of the Herero people during German colonization. The scenes shift seamlessly between Process – wherein the actors balance ego-tripping about “the work” with real questions of research, representation, and empathizing across race and time – and Presentation, in which the ensemble embodies the Herero people, German soldiers, lovers, and killers while attempting to create art without self-censorship. At once, you’re laughing with the rest of them about the idiosyncrasies of devising (“Don’t worry, we’ll find it in improv”), and the next, you’re reminded of the banality of evil and the depth and breadth of human violence. Before Hamilton was singing about who tells our stories, Drury’s characters were wrestling with not only who, but how and why – leaving the audience stupefied and rendering even the characters themselves speechless.
— Natalie Stringer, conferences associate (former)