MARK YOUR CALENDARS! The long awaited re-staging of TAR, DTX’s seminal work about the American racism and African American trickster traditions will be on April 12 and 13 as part of the The Warfield Center’s Performing Blackness Series. We go into rehearsals in January and based on our two day workshop this past summer, I can tell the new direction the work is taking is going to be quite an event! Stay tuned for further details!
About TAR: Due to its retellings and multiple contexts, the story of Bre’r Rabbit and the Tar Baby is not just African American folklore. It is American folklore, much like jazz is American music. While its roots can be traced back to West Africa (and some scholars even maintain India),Southern folklorist, Joel Chandler Harris’ Uncle Remus version and Walt Disney’s 1946 film adaptation are the ones that inhabit American popular imaginations. The tales were retold by white men who claimed to be giving voice to an old Black man who is an ex-slave. A white boy named “Johnny ” was created and included in order to tailor the tales for white rather than black audiences. In two of the three ways that I was exposed to these tales as a child, they were not told for my ears. In retrospect, I’m amazed by that fact. And I find myself drawn to the unarticulated voices—the disappeared voices—that whisper on the periphery of Harris and Disney’s versions: Uncle Remus’ original African voice, the voice of the descendants of African slaves and ex-slaves like my grandfather (who continue to give life to the tales), and the voice of the African American child, present but mute in the film, present but mute in my own past. These unheard/unacknowledged voices are the “tarbabies” I am interested in conjuring. Like Toni Morrison’s use of the Tarbaby folktale, the aim of TAR is not to simply revise the Joel Chandler Harris story or to tell a rabbit trickster story; instead, the piece wants to call attention to the context of our tellings.