A while back, I saw a call for submissions from a local theater company called Green Buffalo Productions. They were working in association with Madwoman in the Attic, a mental health advocacy organization that I follow and for which I have down some writing. The project at the time was called The Big O, but has since been renamed to What it Means to be Human. What it comes down to is oppression, in all its various forms.
Now, I know I am privileged. I’m white, I live in America, and I was raised in a middle-class environment that sent me to private school, plus a year of college. I’ve got privilege upon privilege. So, when I sat down to think about how I have faced oppression, originally, I had nothing. I talked my way out of every slight against me with the knowledge that it could be worse. However, the more I thought about it, we all face some form of oppression in our lives, even if it’s just a small thing. I looked for small things, things I disregarded as oppression because of the bigger, badder sorts of it out there.
The first piece I wrote was for myself. It’s a monologue about Pam Stenzel. If you know who she is, you probably just groaned or laughed, or some combination of the two. If you don’t know who she is, you’re fortunate. (Sahar, who had no knowledge of her, read the piece to give me notes, and the only one she provided was “fuck Pam Stenzel.”)
Pam Stenzel is an abstinence-only speaker who travels to Christian high schools and tells you about how you’re going to die from HPV.
In grade school, we watched her video. In high school, she actually came to speak to us. But that’s beside the point. The point is that sex was verboten in my high school for religious purposes, and she was the symbol of that. I thought of her and I realized…wait! Is that…sexual oppression wrapped in religious oppression? And so, I started to type. I sent the piece off and received word back that they would be doing the show sometime in the spring, and if I wanted to send anything else I could. I think this was in December.
So, everything got pushed back a little, and when I saw their second call for submissions last week, I thought, hey, why not. The only other project I was working on really was my chapbook, and I just approved the final proof yesterday, so nothing to do on that front for a few days. But what other opression could I write about?
In October, Hubs sister came to town and took him to a Post Malone concert for his birthday. Without going into too much detail, it was a traumatic experience for him-he was stopped by police and security, and they ran his ID. Now, here’s something I don’t often tell people, for no other reason than I rarely think about it: my husband has a felony from when he was seventeen. He was homeless and desperate and broke into a house and got caught. He spent three years in prison, and we met right when he moved to Buffalo, and lived in a halfway house downtown.
Mark never hides this fact. I don’t think about it much, as I said, but it does affect our lives, twenty years after the fact. He can’t get the job he wants, so he can’t make enough money to get it expunged. Which means he will never get the job he wants, or a million other things. And, sometimes, (more often than he would care to admit, really) cops give him a hard time.
I don’t know why. He usually isn’t doing anything. He’s been stopped by a cop for walking near where a car was stolen the night before. Once an officer stopped him for walking and eating a sandwich at the same time…I swear to God. And then the concert, where they called him a drunk and slammed him on the hood of the police car and threatened to arrest him. And each time they run his number and see that felony and he becomes suspect number one, even if there’s not a crime to be found.
So…I wrote a little play about that. About how a hardworking, law-abiding citizen can still be discriminated against long after he supposedly paid his debt to society. And I sent that off. So now I may have two pieces in this production.
So…that’s it, right?
No. Nonono. There’s a little part of me that wants to ask, you know…a little part that wants to know if they have a stage manager. A little part that wants to know when auditions are. A little part that wonders who is directing…
Oh, but that’s another blog for another day, isn’t it?