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THE ARTSEMERSON BLOG

WHAT DID YOU THINK OF WE ARE PROUD TO PRESENT…?

Thank you for attending Company One and ArtsEmerson’s production of We are Proud to Present a Presentation About the Herero of Namibia, Formerly Known as South-West Africa, From the German Sudwest Afrika, Between the Years 1884-1915! Please take a moment to reflect on your experience of seeing this show and let us know what you think.

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 1. What were you expecting when you decided to come see this play?

2. What moments in the play surprised you?

3. What moments in the play challenged you?

4. Do you have any experiences trying to tell a complicated story?

5. How would you describe this play to someone who has not seen it.

Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions. We look forward to seeing you soon.

7 Comments

  1. Joan FlorsheimJanuary 12, 2014 at 2:45 pm

    I was sorely disappointed in the play. It was not up to ARTS/Emerson standards- more like a high school or college performance. The best part was the end when it finally got serious. Otherwise, i thought it was insulting to the Herero people, making jokes about a terribly sad situation. I understand it was trying to be a play within a play, but it wasn’t funny, it was boring, and insulting to the audience as well. It did not seriously delve into man’s violence toward man, and did not enlighten the audience as to the history. It insulted the audience’s intelligence and built on the ego’s of the “actors.” The best thing were the hand out, and the end, both of which were serious. I thought it insulted African Americans in the way they were portrayed. The violence against humanity was not taken seriously during most of the play. They didn’t even get the animals of Namibia correct! (tigers?)

    I am an ARTS/Emerson subscriber, and Emerson alum, an ART subscriber, and i see a lot of excellent theatre in Boston and New York. If it had been easier to walk out, i definitely would have.

    Reply
    • Kevin BecerraJanuary 17, 2014 at 1:55 pm

      This is, to be sure, a risky and unusual piece of work and I appreciate that you took that risk with us. I am disappointed to hear that the production didn’t reach you, but I understand your response. Thanks for your thoughts, regardless. At ArtsEmerson we are focused on work that is generative in spirit (bringing our audiences new works, new forms, new artists), international in scope (putting the world on stage), and which adds something to the cultural landscape in Boston. This piece is hitting on all of those themes in our programming, and allows us to showcase the work of an important Boston company. It is also one of the most widely produced plays of the season, nationally, and the first Boston production from an important new voice in American playwriting.

      It is a measure of your engagement with us that you took the time to write, despite the fact that you didn’t enjoy the experience. And, in your criticisms, I think you’re hitting on a lot important topics that the production brings up intentionally. The characters are not able to give a sufficient portrayal of the Herero people – but why? Is it their lack of primary sources? Their youth? This production always makes me wonder how capable we are of telling other people’s stories – especially when those stories come from locations in time and geography that are worlds away from our own.

      You may be interested in the experience of some other people who have seen the show. There are more responses coming in here on the blog and here is the review from WBUR’s reporter. (click here) I hope you will continue to engage with our efforts and to share your thoughts about it as you do.

      Reply
  2. I brought my two daughters to see this play, because I thought it would be an unpretentious but serious investigation of race in America as well as a needed history lesson. I’m happy to say that both of my assumptions were accurate and, beyond that, the play touched and moved me, especially when the actors “accidentally” became the characters they were trying to both invent and portray. Without giving too much away, I was taken aback when a man playing a tender grandmother suddenly became a man again in the worst, most shocking way. Still, even in that scene, the violence was handled delicately but truthfully. As the play moved to its climax, other horrifying scenes of inhumanity towards the Hereros were unmistakably powerful and clear in their moral outrage. I think the playwright, in choosing a meta-theatre style in which to work, was able to draw the audience in both to the story she wanted to tell and to the actors’ own difficulty with having to tell it. This provided dual ways for the audience to be faced with how and why we need to face history, but often don’t.

    Reply
  3. Daniel BoudreauJanuary 16, 2014 at 11:20 pm

    Forgive me in advance for what I know are pretty muddled thoughts about this important play…
    I saw this play nearly a week ago and I continue to be moved by it and have not stopped reflecting on the experience.
    I found the play to be very wise about the dynamics of race in our contemporary world, while also exploring how horrific events in history are often elided from the historical record, for countless reasons including merely because the telling of them becomes uncomfortable… Simultaneously it asks us to look at how horrific events also get appropriated for use in narrative and artistic expression. To me, the play’s conundrum lies in suggesting that this appropriation is vital and necessary, while simultaneously, too often, impossible. One level of this play’s brilliance exits in its drawing into relief how the stories we tell ourselves about the meaning of race, and how we enact those stories, react to them, understand them and perform them all blind us from truly being honest about its role in our experiential lives, and thus seemingly impossible to be honest about… The play echoes with a devastating poignancy around the essential need to face racial dynamics, oppression, racism, and white supremacy through the crafting of narratives about them, but the reality that these very forces dictate and serve vast systems of privilege which make attempts to honestly assess them through narratives and artistic endeavors such fraught and grappling messes …

    Would ya believe I’m actually trying to laud this play?!? Again, forgive the very muddled nature of me trying to work through those ideas, and also know that the play is also brilliantly acted, surprisingly funny at points, and staged with great care and imagination. If you want to see a compelling and highly original play that showcases a very talented cast that also seeks to challenge you to sort through uncomfortable truths. If you want to see a play that somehow is able to simultaneously contain moments of great comedy, look at how theater pieces are formed, provide a sharp exploration of how white privilege can function in the most seemingly relaxed social settings, and bring to attention an important forgotten part of the African Holocaust, check this play out.
    It was one of the more engaging pieces of theater I have seen in some time. Thanks.

    Reply
  4. I saw We Are Proud… Wednesday night, so that’s about two days ago. And like Daniel, my thoughts are still muddled and confused about my response and reaction to the performance. I do know the play entered my dreams that night, again in a very confusing way. It is a disturbing play, and I was lulled into the play, to the point that at the beginning thinking, this is all sort of silly, and I’m not even sure quite when I began to squirm in my seat. I imagine that point is reached during different times for everyone. As I slowly come about on it though, my biggest reaction to the play revolved first around history, which makes sense because the title of the play references history, and the narrative that evolves from history. Then you wrap that in our national dialogue on race.

    It is said that history is written by the victors, and sometimes the victors are a little hard to identify. For example, the mainstream media today still hold enormous sway over the public’s consciousness, to the point where this last election was historic for the fact that the first woman ran for president of the United States, but that fact wasn’t noted in places like the debates, the NYT, Washington Post, et. al. You had to go to the alternative press. This play takes on the role the alternative press plays today.

    The playwright of We are Proud…approaches an event in history that reached Western ears only through letters from the German soldiers serving, the “victors.” But there were other stories that were told, but the western white world just hadn’t heard them. What I find interesting is that we, in the Western world, depend on the press–the fourth estate–sanctioned organizations to tell us the news, which we believe are, for the most part, delivering “the facts.” We rarely think about learning about an event through the arts. In Cold Blood and The Laramie Project come to mind. But we feel that the “artistic” or “dramatic” telling is less authentic or credible, and I think that is one notion that this play takes on. We are Proud…is saying that it–the play–is a credible account of history.

    Another interesting point is that I was aware of the the story told about the miners in the American Civil War. It’s a true story, well-documented, even with images on Google, and as the play says, an African American division was invovled. What I found interesting was I never heard the telling of it like I heard in We are Proud… It’s an example of different facts of the same story that can constantly be unearthed.

    One last point: the play brings out the necessity and importance to lsten to all participants in an event, from the victims to the participants. So many of the characters didn’t want to listen; it seemed to me that the characters only wanted to hear what was self-serving to them? At the start, Black Woman didn’t want to read the letters of the white German soldiers. The white characters didn’t want to hear the stories told by the African-American characters. The character whose relative was involved in the Civil War had to fight for some of the other characters to listen to him and acknowledge his narrative. And it also tells us to fight to tell our stories.

    And the ending? It blew my mind. Actually, “both” endings, but I don’t want to spoil it.

    Reply
  5. I want to thank ArtsEmerson for putting on this production. I thought the play was brilliant, important, and deeply moving. The acting and direction were superb. My one criticism is the pacing; the play felt repetitive and too long. The upshot of that for me was to be put off and drawn out of the play quite a bit of the time. The repetitions started to make me feel I was being beaten over the head with the points that had already been stated many times. I wish there had been more editing.

    Reply
  6. An extraordinary piece of collaborative work. I found myself NOT able to laugh a whole lot during the first part (and couldn’t figure out why I was missing the joke or jokes). I guess I later “realized” that it wasn’t a joke: it was barely contained hysteria that (as I wrote somewhere else) exploded in the second half. I’m definitely going to try to see it again. I read a review of the New York production, and couldn’t extract where, if at all, it might have differed from this. Unimportant: congratulations to CompanyOne and ArtsEmerson. And thanks.

    Reply

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