By RYCH McCAIN
The legendary Stella Adler Theatre in Hollywood just ended a successful run of the new stage play, Chariot. The play hits hard, addressing subjects like racism, homophobia and acceptance within a dysfunctional Black family living in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles.
On the outside, the Hill family has made it in terms of the beautiful suburban house located on a peaceful cul-de-sac of cookie cutter homes, but on the inside they live a life of lies and deceit where truthful discussions can’t take place. No one can be Black in lieu of offending the neighbours and no one can be gay or anything else that is considered against the norm but this family has the militant, gay and otherwise rebellious elements that soon come to a head.
Steven Lee wrote this play and reflects about the motivation behind the content. He explains: “When writing, I really had to allow myself to say what I said in this piece. I was kind of brought up as many of us are to not share our dirty laundry in public especially with mixed audiences if you will and it felt kind of risky.
“But as a writer you feel so solitary and that you’re just doing it for yourself. So I told myself, I’ll just write it for me even though it was a play. So, of course, when it became a play I realized ‘oh my goodness’ it has to be performed, people will see it and I was a little bit nervous.”
Does Lee have a central theme that he writes from or is he sort of all over the place?
“I think I have a central theme. I like to think I’m all over the place. I like to write comedies a lot. I’ve written a lot of comedies. But one of the recurring themes is be true. Be true to your uniqueness.
“You can be in the group but you don’t have to become the group and hide your uniqueness and hide your individuality and the group won’t collapse with you in it as yourself. I think that is one of the biggest themes of everything that I write.”
What does Lee hope the audience takes from Chariot?
“I really hope they recognize the message that you can be yourself and you can love yourself even if you’re different from other people and you’re different from what you were told you should be. I think that is really important for our inner city youth, for youth in school that have different learning styles, that that’s acceptable.
“I just want people to feel good about themselves, to really investigate why they are not feeling good about themselves and to start a conversation about what’s bothering us as individuals.
“Why are there so many disenfranchised people in prison? Why are there more in the prison than in the universities as quoted in my play?
“We can’t act like that’s not happening and there’s a reason for it. And I think telling people that you can’t talk about your pain is one of the things we need to rethink.
“This play really confronts different kinds of pain in a family unit and that’s OK. We can survive that. We are strong enough to survive talking about our pain especially when we talk about it knowing that we are going to find and have solutions.”
Photo courtesy of Jazzmyne PR