The Billie Holiday Theatre's monologue showcase series will return May 6 at 7 PM ET with 50in50: Shattering the Glass Ceiling, an evening celebrating the 2020 election, which saw the country elect its first female and first Black Vice President. In response to MacArthur “Genius” Dominique Morisseau’s curatorial statement (below), the virtual event will center around the concept of women “shattering the glass ceiling” and what it means to reach beyond barriers.
Fifty monologues were selected from women of African descent from across the globe. Interpreting these original works will be Lisa Arrindell (The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks), Marsha Stephanie Blake (When They See Us), LaTanya Richardson Jackson (Luke Cage), Sanaa Lathan (The Perfect Guy), Dawnn Lewis (Tina: The Tina Turner Musical), Tony winner Audra McDonald (Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill), Celestine Rae (Boardwalk Empire), Retta (Good Girls), Angelica Ross (Pose), Michele Shay (Seven Guitars), Gabourey Sidibe (Antebellum), Phyllis Yvonne Stickney (How Stella Got Her Groove Back), Wanda Sykes (Black-ish), Pauletta Washington (She's Gotta Have It), and Tony nominee Vanessa Williams (Ugly Betty).
Music will be performed by Maritri Garrett.
“Going into this fifth year of 50in50, it is really incredible to see the movement that has been created with this series. It is one that has become a safe space and platform for agency and empowerment for Black women from all parts of the world to share their diverse and nuanced experiences and to really tackle the issues that affect us as Black women every day,” said Washington. “I am proud and honored to have been a part of this series for all five years and I love that these stories illustrate how Black women are stepping into their power.”
The Billie’s 50in50: Shattering the Glass Ceiling is presented in partnership with the Frank Silvera Writers’ Workshop. Click here for more information. Read on for Morisseau's complete curatorial statement.
In August Wilson’s play Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, the blues icon Ma Rainey waits until the very end of the play before she signs a contract to release the songs that she just recorded. Ma knows that once she signs the dotted line, the producers have her voice and will no longer need to treat her with deference or in accordance to her worth. Ma is calculating. She usurps their power throughout the story because she knows that signing the dotted line means relegation to the baseline. This black woman blues singing legend will be given baseline treatment once the industry has what they want from her. As black women writers and thinkers, we know this baseline well.
It is the line that tells us that we are not worthy of being paid equal to men or even white women. It is the line that tells us not to speak out for fear of being labeled "difficult." It is standing in a room fully in your power and having someone call your confidence "aggression." It is being talked over on a vice presidential debate stage and having to say, '"I’m speaking." It is having to reclaim your time on the assembly floor. It is being undermined by supervisors who believe themselves to be superior. It is being the continual target of white patriarchal rage and resentment. It is being shot in your own home and having the offending officer be charged with harming the wall in priority over taking your life. It is constantly watching your social currency be measured so low on the scale that it barely moves the needle.
And yet, we are made of resilient defiance. We take up spaces that weren't intended for us and we thrive. We take the defeat of a questionable gubernatorial election and respond by converting an entire state. We see the glass ceiling and refuse to be obedient to its implications. We forge on because we are needed, mostly by ourselves.
But we are not robots or mythological creatures. Possessing "Black girl magic'"does not make us "magical negroes.'" We feel the sting against us and it has all of the potential to exhaust us. And yet, we are often the last ones standing. We are the ones who show up on the frontlines and the home frontiers, stepping in when there is no one else to carry the load. Stepping up when there is no one else to share the vision. We have been these same resilient warriors since our origins.