Pearl Cleage Communes With Her Younger Self In Twin One-Act Plays

The first day of rehearsals for the Alliance’s 2017/18 production 2 One Act Plays by Pearl Cleage.
Credit Courtesy of A’riel Tinter.
Audio version of this story here.

Pearl Cleage’s one-act play “Hospice” premiered in 1983 and was showered with awards for its Off Broadway run. Now, the Atlanta-based writer has followed up on that story, and the Alliance Theatre is putting both plays on-stage.

“Hospice” and the world premier “Pointing at the Moon,” though separated by thirty years, are connected through the character of Jenny Anderson. In “Hospice,” she is 30 years old and pregnant. She is watching over her long-absent mother, who is near death.

“Jenny is trying to make up for those twenty years,” Cleage explains, “and Alice (the mother) is trying to find some peace and quiet.”

“That play, for me, was coming at a time when I was really trying to understand my relationship with my family,” Cleage tells City Lights host Lois Reitzes. “I read the play now, and I see myself reflected in the daughter, who was trying so hard to figure out her mother — to get her mother to tell her the secrets that we all think our mothers have and are not sharing with us.”

“Pointing at the Moon” finds Jenny, now 60, looking back on her own life and trying to reckon with the choices she has made.

Both plays feature actors Terry Burrell and Tinashe Kajese-Bolden, who each play Jenny at the different times in her life. Cleage says that in returning to the character, she is operating now with a great deal more life experience. Still, she does not appear to view youth as folly or age, necessarily, as automatically wise.

“The young will teach the elder,” Burrell says, “if the elder is open to that.”

“You have to be conscious of the moment you are moving through in your own life,” says Cleage. “It is not helpful when you are 60 to be pretending you are still 40. Because that means that you are ignoring all the lessons you had to learn.”

“The thing Jenny really has to grapple with in ‘Pointing at the Moon,'” she says, “is that moment of saying ‘I can’t spend my life regretting that it’s not 20 years ago. I have to find my strengths at this moment and use them to continue to try to make the world better.'”

“Hospice” and “Pointing at the Moon” run March 23 – April 15 at the Fulton County Southwest Arts Center.