I haven’t watched 12 Years A Slave. I’ve been dragging my feet about it, no pun intended. Last time someone asked me to go with, I said, “But I’ve already seen Django Unchaaiinned” (last part is my voice ending on a screeching whine). As far as I was concerned, I’d done my “slave-movie” quota for the year. (Not to be confused with “black-people movie” quota for the year. I’ve still got my eye on you, Best Man Holiday.)
That feeling came back again recently – the “But I’ve already done thaat” feeling – when I was recently approached by an old theatre colleague who asked me, “Are you still acting?” I answered no, not since 2008-ish. Many reasons why. But coincidentally in 2014 I was going through an “Aw-I-miss-acting” phase brought on by my having started attending live shows again. Watching We Can Be Heroes at Second City reminded me of the incomparable high that comes from standing up in a roomful of living breathing sweating humans and playing at being someone else. So I answered, “No but I miss it.” Then, regarding the part they needed an actor for, asked, “Wait, am I going to be a maid?” Answer: “No.” Me: “Good! But wait, am I going to be a slave?” Answer: “Nope.” Not that I have anything against slave parts, mind. The first role I played in Toronto was Viney, Helen Keller’s mamie in The Miracle Worker. It was a Juanita Moore kind of time, when I had to learn to be fat and Southern . At the time, a castmate told me that she’d overheard the director say, with regret, “Poor Rebecca, comes all the way to Canada from Europe to be an actor and she gets to play what? A slave.” He wasn’t off the mark, but he was way ahead of me. Having come from a high school where I was given meaty parts in Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility and The Government Inspector to play, I thought this Viney would be just another part, not the part for all time that would keep popping up in my face under different guises. I didn’t start noticing that funny pattern of reality until quite a number of years into post-theatre school auditions.
Back to the present then, and me listening to details about this potential gig. The part: an “African” (you know, from that country) nanny who can’t get her paycheque out of her Canadian employers, much less her travel documents, and so must resort to the supernatural aid of some gods from, you know, that country Africa. So, a slave in the skin of a maid.
You know that feeling, the one you get when you run into an ex and you’re making polite chitchat but all the time in your head you’re thinking, “Oh yea, that‘s why I left your ass.”?
But that pull, that what if, is still hard to resist. I tried to justify going for the part anyway, on the rationalization that slavery still exists today – case in point, Ethiopian girls who live and die as domestics in the Arab world – and that in playing such a part I’d be giving them some voice . But I can barely convince myself that that would make a single more shit of difference than watching 12 Years would in the Reparations movement. So, as of a couple of days since the offer, I haven’t run towards it but I haven’t run away from it either. What am I doing instead? You guessed it. Draggin’ my feet.
And now I have to stop and publish this because my unofficial New Year’s Resolution is to limit posts to 500 words, and I’m already 128 words over. Way over.