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      SOMEONE WHO LOOKS LIKE ME by Barbara Biddison

      imagebbbLots of messages out there during the past few weeks.  One has spoken so powerfully to me as a white female human being.  This message is delivered by young girls of color who see Kamala Harris and say, with what sounds to me like their sense of new opportunity, "There's someone who looks like me!"  And I keep thinking that I, as a white female, have always seen someone whose skin color is the same as mine. 

      My Swedish grandparents came to this country as young adults where they met and married in Minnesota.  Now, I don't even look like the typical Swede (tall and blond), but I am the granddaughter of immigrants, and that has never made me feel like I don't belong.  There has always been someone who looks like me who gets to be and do what I might want to be and do.  What must it be like, at age 13 or 25, to look at a woman of color and see her in a position of importance?
      So, does this have something to do with theatre and in particular with Hamilton-Gibson?  I think so.  First of all, lately we've been talking about crawling around in someone else's skin.  I don't think we can do that by having a person with white skin play a character with black skin in a play.  Well, we can in the play I suppose, but it's not going to work for the audience if the point is that the character is black.  So how do we get there?  Well, maybe white actors in a mixed race play can get that kind of deeper understanding by interacting on stage with someone they know who is a person of color.  What is it like for their characters to interact?  We could crawl around in that skin. 
      This takes me back to HE HELD ME GRAND (2011) with a cast of 17, 5 of whom were black.  My character April Williams, and Charla's character Grace Turner lived next door to each other and had been best friends for over 70 years. Well, I had certainly not had that experience in my life with a black best friend neighbor for 70 years.. I think we really did crawl around in our own and in each others' character's skins.  One of my favorite scenes was when April and Grace were talking about "the girl at church" who insisted on being called African American because "we don't' say black anymore." Then Grace said, "We're not talking about the color of your skin, honey.  We're talking about your nationality.  This is who you are. You are a black person.  That is your heritage."  And then Grace "Hooo!" laughed as she told about being offered coffee and being asked how she liked her coffee.  In front of the girl Grace said, "I'll take my coffee African-American."  And then she finished it all up by saying that the girl was not being respectful at all..."she had an earring in her nose."  To be able to joke like that while living the lives of April and Grace was as close to climbing around in someone else's brown skin as I'll ever get. 

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