News & Updates
Lisa B. Thompson’s 'Single Black Female' opens a new season at Crossroads
Anthony Stoeckert September 30, 2016
Neither Stephanie Weeks nor Daphne Gaines were very familiar with Lisa B. Thompson’s comedy “Single Black Female” before they were cast in Crossroads Theatre Company’s upcoming production of the play, but both actresses were familiar with its themes.
While reading the script, Ms. Weeks noticed Ms. Thompson’s reference to a statistic from the 2001 U.S. Census, which stated that 41.9 percent of black woman had never married, compared to 20.8 percent for white women.
”I heard about the statistic,” Ms. Weeks says. “I was very familiar with it, and have had many conversations with a girlfriend or two, talking about that very thing, about being single, being a black woman and how much harder it is for us to get married or find someone. I was familiar with it that way.”
She also connected with the play’s themes of identity, fitting in, and what’s assumed about upper middle class African-American women and men.
”I’m very, very familiar with that,” she says.
Ms. Gaines had heard of the play and was intrigued by its title. Once she did read it, she says she related to most of it.
”The surprising part is that I felt like Lisa was writing words that I had thought about and words I had heard many women like myself express as well,” Ms. Gaines says. “I relate to a lot of things. I don’t, of course, relate to everything in the play but I understand being an African-American woman who has benefited from my ancestors and my parents’ generation, their hard work. There is a particular quandary, I think, some middle-class African-American women are in when it comes to dating and being single. There are certain family values that if you are middle class and live in a sprawling metropolitan city like New York, some of those old-fashioned — I call them old-fashioned — values don’t necessarily apply to us.”
Ms. Weeks and Ms. Gaines will star in “Single Black Female,” as the two-character comedy opens the new season at Crossroads in New Brunswick, Oct. 6-23.
The play’s setup sees two single black female characters, one a teacher, the other a lawyer, talking about the lives of single, middle-class, African-American women. The two friends talk about their lives, which sets up them acting out several vignettes that are funny but also speak to certain truths. More humor comes through the two actresses taking on the parts of other characters, such as their relatives and friends.
One scene Ms. Gaines says connected with her involves her character talking about going home for Christmas and dealing with her aunts, who she calls “The Mafia,” because while they’re happy for her success, they’re more concerned with why she’s still single.
”A lot of women these days, whether middle class or not, who have feminist values think of marriage in a different way from the previous generation, and also are waiting longer periods of time to wed and have children,” Ms. Gaines says. “And many of us are choosing not to have children. For my character in particular, she’s made her education and career a priority.”
Ms. Weeks says her character is obsessed with status and class, and though she says she’s not as obsessed as the character, she understands the pressure the character feels in being a member of the black middle class.
”I definitely feel there has been a way that my family has made very clear to me, my responsibility of being in the black middle class,” she says. “That means there’s a way we are supposed to act... and we cannot be a disappointment to our race.”
”Single Black Female” opens Crossroads’ season devoted to the “power, glory, and struggles” of women. It will be followed by Langston Hughes’ “Black Nativity, Dec. 9-18. The play tells the story of Mary and the birth of Jesus with African dance and storytelling, as well as traditional Christmas carols and original music sung gospel style.
To mark Black History Month, Crossroads will present “Harriet Tubman: I See Freedom,” Feb. 9-19. The play tells the story of the famed abolitionist through a modern perspective, set in the Harriet Tubman Retirement Home. Crossroads Artistic Director Marshall Jones III will direct the world premiere.
The season will wrap up with “Sarah Sings a Love Story,” the world premiere of Stephanie Berry’s musical play about Sarah Vaughan.
“Single Black Female” will be performed at Crossroads Theatre Company, 7 Livingston Ave., New Brunswick, Oct. 6-23. For tickets and information, go to crossroadstheatrecompany.org or call 732-545-8100.