by Lia Russell-Self (WAM’s Associate Producing Director and the Assistant Director of PIPELINE)
WAM’s Lia Russell-Self has been assisting director Dawn M. Simmons on our production of PIPELINE that begins previews October 24! In this blog post, Lia opens the door to the rehearsal studio and lets us peek inside.
Walking into the rehearsal studio, you can hear James [who plays the role of Dun] loudly laughing and cracking a joke. You can see Alexandria [who plays the lead role of Nya] stretching and warming up in the corner, sprinkled with a few vocalized exertions. Everyone’s moving around, energized to get started.
The subject matter of the PIPELINE is hard – institutional racism, public education, parenting through separation – but Dominique Morisseau’s play is beautifully authentic, and there’s joy in this authenticity. From before the first rehearsal, Dawn encouraged us to keep those genuine interactions alive in our explorations. The authenticity extends from the characters to the ensemble of artists gathered. There’s a longing to be in the room with each other to just talk about this work. We laugh and cry together, sometimes simultaneously.
There’s no monolith of the black experience in this room, no single narrative. There’s beauty and solidarity in our differences that we celebrate and uplift and ask questions. We don’t have to serve the supremacist idea that we must each serve as lonely representatives of the melanated experience. We find community and love with our idiosyncrasies.
“I want to talk about this, but also be a person” is often a phrase heard echoed through each break. There’s an abundance of hugs that are exchanged, whether to validate another person’s experience or just because.
When we leave, it’s hard. We’re still jiving on fulfilled art that keeps us talking and vibrating on this amazing experience.