January 24th, 2012

Memphis lives in me...

~Tuesday~  Tonight I staffed the Manbites Dog Theater (MDT) table in the Durham Performing Arts Center (DPAC), before the Broadway play Memphis started at 7:30.

I had a sign-up sheet to get on MDT's e-mail list, which I usually encouraged people visiting the table with, "And don't worry, we promise not to spam you. Actually, we don't have enough staff to spam you." That always got a chuckle, while at the same time allayed their fear a little of that very thing, I presume.

Also on the table was a stack of flyers of our current play, Donald, and another stack of our current season brochure.

In the dozen or so interactions I had with people, I pointed out our upcoming show called "I Love My Hair When Its Good & Then Again When It Looks Defiant and Impressive." I said, "Looks like it'll be a hoot," and when I detailed that it was about "the complex relationship between African-American women and their hair," most people smiled and said, "Oh, yes!"

I also had one sample of a MDT t-shirt on the table, a white one with the red dog on it, and I was wearing a black one with the red dog on it.

Thoughts and observations while staffing the table:

  • It's so interesting to watch the great extents to which people go to avoid eye contact.

  • Many people wanted to know what the table was about before acknowledging it any way.

  • When I talked to one couple who was waiting in the line to get in the VIP lounge, they said, "Oh we know Manbites Dog. We love that place. In fact, we're going to see Donald on Friday. We know one of the writers."

  • Some long-time friends of mine, a (guy) couple, came up and said, "We have been meaning to get to Manbites forever, but we never have. This is just the incentive we need," as they signed the email list and took a season brochure.

  • Another person walked up and said, "Thank you for being here."

  • A couple of people working at the DPAC stopped by and one signed the email list.

  • Another couple stopped by and said, "Oh we love that theater."

Our table was near the entrance to the DPAC's VIP Donor Lounge, which is part of their President's Club VIP Program. It was fascinating to see how much self-importance a $2000 donation can breed in people.

And that takes me to the show, which is one I've never seen. In thanks for staffing the table, I was given a comp ticket. A $66 ticket, I might add.

Thoughts and observations about the play:

  • The overall word I would use to describe this show would be ambivalence. I enjoyed the storyline, but there was something about another show with a white protagonist (à la The Help) that permeated it for me.

  • I liked that we're in a place that when the "n-word" was used in one scene, there was a huge, collective gasp by the audience.

  • The people on either side of me—one an early-teen girl and the other an early-30s young lady—described the show as "fantastic" during their intermission cell phone calls.

  • While I thought it was very good, I wouldn't go to the fantastic place with it; however with that said, it did win four Tony Awards.

  • I liked that there was a decent racial mix to the audience. If I had to guess, I'd say it was about 65% black, 30% white, and 5% of the remaining representatives of the rainbow coalition.

  • My favorite song from the show was Memphis Lives in Me.