The Strong Black Girl: A Motivational Musical through Monologue - Cia Michelle
Reviewed By Kat Whalen
“The Strong Black Girl: A Motivational Musical through Monologue” by Cia Michelle is based on her book ‘The Strong Black Girl is a Myth’ which rebuts the idea that black girls and women are inherently tough. Ms. Michelle led her cast of 5 other black women as they identify, sometimes in verse, and sometimes in song, the ways that being assumed to be strong have limited and harmed them.
The women emerged as though for a church service, complete with dresses, hats and hand-held fans. They sat in a row on the stage and conversed, until Ms. Michelle opened and explained that the evening was to have a call and response format. Anytime one of the participants said "Here lies the body of a strong black girl," the audience was encouraged to respond "May she rest in peace." (These calls became louder and more enthusiastic through the course of the evening!) Then, one by one, the women stood and rejected, often through autobiography, sometimes through song, the myth of being strong. Several, in powerful testimony that wrested cries of "Amen" from the audience, also attacked the idea that they had to be thin, and instead demanded that they be loved for who they are, rather than how they appear.
It was an evening of powerful and moving testimony, though marred somewhat when some of the women did not consistently speak into the microphone, The more serious issue was the lighting. The stage was lit by a spotlight, but as the women moved about, they sometimes left and then re-entered the illumination, particularly while singing. Later, Ms Michelle pointed out that some flowers, which were below the lit part of the stage, were supposed to have been white. It wasn't even clear how many flower arrangements there were, let alone their color. However, this was the opening performance and these relatively minor issues will likely be corrected. The audience, and Fringe participants as a whole, were particularly encouraged to attend the July 30th production of ’The Strong Black Girl’, during which reparations from men would be given to the women. But, reparations or not, this was an enjoyable, and thought-provoking, evening of theater.