". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Xalapa Cuatro + Reading On Wednesday

     . . . . Yesterday was a four-hour text rehearsal of "The American Slave Coast: A Reading of History With Music, as it is billed hereThis morning we did another four hours.  We'll finally get to have a rehearsal with the musicians, beginning at six this evening.  So that will go, who knows how long.

We're waiting at the moment to have lunch delivered to us in the hotel room because at four PM we have to do a "Conversation" at the university, with Donald Harrison and someone else I do not know, on the musical history connections among Veracruz, Cuba and New Orleans.  We're still working on the slides that go with the Slave Coast theatrical presentation tomorrow night, and trying to prepare for the 4 PM event.  We also have another one, specifically on the history of Slave Coast on Friday.

Navigating between Spanish and English, the Spanish translation and our English version, all of us -- the Director, the actors and el V and me -- attempting to get the words just right, etc., has left me feeling as though my head is filled with heavy rocks, very many very heavy rocks.  Among other trip and fall spots is that our Spanish tends toward the Cuban, and there are locutions and words and pronunciations we are used to that simply don't exist in the Spanish here among the Veracruz intellectual, artistic and university educated -- and vice versa.  Then there are the trip and falls that have to do with English into Spanish and Spanish into English.  It's been a cooperative effort, everyone from the original translator of our text, to the director and the actors and now us, to make it as fresh, lively and accurate as possible.

Everyone is giving at least 110% to our work. And even more. C, the actress who does the "Letter From Virginia", the heartbreaking, accidentally preserved letter to the infamous slave trader, R.C. Ballard, has memorized it.  She's presenting this complicated text as any actress would expect to.  In truth, it is an incredible role for an actress.  (When we did it at Symphony Space in New York a year ago, the readers were musicians, not actors -- and me who is no performer of any kind.) 

Virginia Boyd was light-skinned slave used by the slave trader and his cronies, passed around among them, literally as a sex slave, and by whom she had children.  Something happened -- we don't know what -- and she, who had had a relatively physically decent life, was no pregnant, which was causing trouble for some big white fella, and she's been sent away from the upper south, is now in a Texas slave pen waiting for auction.  She writing, begging to be spared this fate of being sold away with her children where she knows nobody at all -- and to what? a Texas cotton field?  Because she's now past her first beauty's bloom . . .  We don't know what happened.  It's only by an accident of history that this letter exists for us to read, for her name, Virginia Boyd, to be preserved, and for us to speculate about her.

It's incredibly painful to read.  The actress delivers the content in her native Spanish, and all of the terror, anger, incomprehension -- all of it comes through.  My Spanish isn't good enough to follow the words literally, but the actress's skills are so good that I can follow the feelings.  As mentioned -- this is one hell of a juicy opportunity for a professional actress -- which, of course, we'd never thought of previously -- so yah, she wasn't going to waste that opportunity.  Still, its one hell of a thing to see and hear.

     . . . . Not much reading this last week -- we arrived in Mexico last Wednesday!  It was late, and even later when we got into our hotel -- which had lost power, which had made it impossible for the cab driver bringing us from the airport to find it.  That was our first adventure . . . .

The only book I brought with me is Diana Gabaldon's Voyager, which is where the Starz third season now is -- also the volume after which I stopped reading the series.  The caricatures of non-euro people and the preposterous religion and history that takes over -- the author's ignorance of same, is why.  How the television series will handle this -- I hope better than the author did!  But the earlier sections of Voyager -- 1059 pages long, why yes that is correct, the novel is one thousand and fifty-nine pages -- are perfect get-out-of-where-one's-head/back-is escapism.

ETA:  Returned from the 4 PM conversation at 6 PM.  I am missing the music rehearsal of Slave Coast, because my spine went splah with pain in the chairs provided.  Need to sit stretched out now, with feet up and recover, to get through tomorrow's very long day's work and then the performance.

It also turned cold here today -- down into the 40's tonight and as the Conversation was semi-outdoors, despite my jacket, I got chilled.  Nevertheless, I did my best to follow along in the discussions of the 'negros' and their music in the Caribbean and here, in Veracruz and New Orleans in the 18th century -- which is the era in which the principals of Voyager arrive in this part of the world, leaving Scotland behind forever, maybe.

However, in this original time travel romance, it is impossible not to notice, that as long as Claire stays in her own time, Jamie's life reaches equilibrium.  The very moment she arrives back in the 18th century, it's rapine, murder and chaos, and ooops, on the run again!


Fats Domino has walked to heaven.  1928 - 2017.

We learned of this just prior to leaving for the Conversation.

Our guys, playing the Slave Coast music, are all New Orleans musicians who all knew him well.

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