By Laura P. Valtorta
Yesterday Marco and I went to see a reading of Anthony Lamarr’s stage play Calming the Man at the Richland County Public Library on Main Street. The actors were from New Life Productions, a group I worked with to put on my play, Bermuda. Once again I was struck by the talent of the actors we have in Columbia.
Sharn Hopkins is the head of New Life Productions, and I am proposing that we write a screenplay together. Both of us are hard-headed women, so I wonder how this can work. I’ve never sat down with someone else to work on a writing project. Producing a film takes a team of people, but writing is something personal.
Our first meeting about the screenplay is next Thursday. I’ve prepared by collecting a list of ideas for plots. How can we write about conflict between a so-called ‘black’ woman and a so-called ‘white’ woman and make it funny and real? There is only one human race, but we segregate ourselves in the United States based on skin color. This creates huge problems. Art can deal with the issue better than almost anything except a change in the law.
I wonder about toning down my bossiness. This project will only work if Sharn also shows up with a briefcase of ideas. I can count on her to have an opinion, which is what I need. Push-back is key. If my ideas are stupid, she needs to say so. And I need the freedom to be honest with her.
Other concepts besides skin color will enter into this. Religion – what role does it play? I’ve never run away from religion, but I am an agnostic. Sharn belongs to a local congregation. She does not believe in using curse words. My favorite radio show is Howard Stern.
Recently I traveled to Cuba, where there is no segregation based on skin color. Looking around the streets of Havana and Cienfuegos, it was difficult to see a couple or a husband and wife who shared the same skin color. You don’t often see two white people together or two black people at a market unless they are tourists. Cuban families are every shade of white-brown-black all within the same household. The relief is palpable. There is no color line. That’s the kind of screenplay I’m aiming for.