What does it mean to be black? Is it the shade of your skin or the kink in your hair? Is it learned?
These questions are explored in “The Box Marked Black: Tales from a Halfrican American growing up Mulatto. With sock puppets!” Written and performed by Damaris Webb and directed by Debra Disbrow, the play is debuting at Willamette University Oct. 24-25.
“In exploring the story of my blackness and unpacking my personal relationship to identity, race and culture, it quickly became clear that the best form for this exploration was as a solo piece,” Webb says. “Hopefully, telling my story will create space for others to unpack and breathe around their own varied identities.”
With only Jenny Willis from “The Jeffersons” as a guide, Webb’s narrative uses direct storytelling, modern dance, song and puppetry to share the perspectives of both sides of her interracial family.
To Webb, “The Box Marked Black” is more about honoring her family’s legacy than it is about diversity. What’s more, she says the play’s various themes — such as abandonment, belonging, fear and acceptance — are relatable to everyone.
“Although my personal story is unique to my specific set of circumstances, the human canon of emotions is universal, she says. “In my experience, true diversity is both about articulating and sharing our stories, and taking the time to listen to another’s story. I want to be part of an artistic and political culture that supports this necessary exchange.”
Webb is a performer, director and teaching artist who recently relocated to Portland, Ore., after 26 years making and producing work in New York City. She holds her MFA from Naropa’s Contemporary Performance Program in Boulder, Colo. and her BFA from New York University’s Experimental Theater Wing. In Portland, she offers contemplative dance practice through Be Space and is a coach for PlayWrite, Inc.
All tickets are general admission and cost $15. A limited number are available for the Oct. 24 performance. For the Oct. 25 performance, people are strongly encouraged to buy their tickets in advance.
Tickets will also be available at the door of the Pelton Theatre, by calling the WU Theatre Box Office at 503-370-6221, by email at email@example.com, online at www.boxofficetickets.com, and through Travel Salem, 181 High St., 503-581-4325 Ext. 21.