Lisa B. Thompson delivers staged reading of ‘The Mamalogues’
With her vibrant personality and biting commentary on race and motherhood in the “age of anxiety,” professor and playwright Lisa B. Thompson helped kickoff the opening of the Center for Communication, Difference, and Equity (CCDE) on May 29.
Thompson, also an associate professor of African and African Diaspora Studies at the University of Texas at Austin, gave a staged reading of her play “The Mamalogues” at the Husky Union Building. Drawing from two acts, “Baby Steps (Becoming Mother)” and “Oh, Mother!,” the reading focused on specific scenes central to the theme of black motherhood. Thompson said she too is living amid the “mamademic” of balancing the tenure clock and mama clock at the same time.
Thompson’s reading placed the audience at the beginnings of motherhood – birth. The character talked about the initial apprehensions of motherhood and hope for a healthy baby, but soon moved into the realization of race and difference for her baby with every push. “I see the slave ship and I begin to imagine the unthinkable…giving birth in the hall of a slave ship in 1872.”
Amid a world of cramming for entrance exams to get into preschool and peanut allergies for most parents, black parents are navigating the high school drop-out rate for black boys and black children being punished in school more than any other group.
Thompson’s play introduced the audience to “Race ‘R’ Us,” a world that teaches mothers how to raise “happy, balanced Black-American children,” and that continues through their pre-teen years with “Camp Race Card.” The pretend camp looks at past and current issues of police brutality against black men. A solemn eulogy referenced the lives of African-American men, such as Michael Brown and Oscar Grant.
These anxieties persist for black mothers not only when educating their children on the meaning of the n-word, but for other stereotypes associated with black bodies.
A final scene, “Terror in the Suburbs,” illustrated a black mother’s desire to raise her child in a good area, but feeling uneasy navigating the “integration tight rope” in a predominantly white neighborhood. Thompson’s play then satirized the criticism black suburban mothers often receive for their worries – “How dare I complain, my daughter attends the best suburban school in a one-hundred mile radius. What’s to fear?”
The conclusion of Thompson’s reading met with sustained and loud applause. One audience member said it was “funny” and “hurting” at the same time.
Written by Alisa Yamaguchi