Last Edit: sergius 08:36 am EDT 06/27/22
Posted by: sergius 08:32 am EDT 06/27/22

Listen to hear not to respond. Baldwin’s words, instructive and necessary in 1971, seem crucial now. LESSONS IN SURVIVAL: 1971 is salutary documentary theatre, but it also disturbs. Fifty years on, we’re still having similar, if not in ways the same, conversations about entitlement and privilege to be sure, but mostly about fear, the fear that all the “others,” those who have long been maligned and kept far from power, are ascendant and brandishing, as Baldwin puts it, a bill to pay. So LESSONS IN SURVIVAL, a 1971 televised conversation between two generations of African American experience, is still urgent. Baldwin’s mind, in particular, is a flare of rage inflected intellect and it’s thrilling to see him, superbly incarnated by Carl Clemons-Hopkins, at once discover and teach. Nikki Giovanni is a rapt, admiring student but no pushover. The tension here is generational: Giovanni, at 28, has ideas and expectations, but Baldwin has experience based interpretations. They’re tenderly impatient with each other. The conversation is wide ranging with one notable exception: there is no mention of, and only a brief allusion to, Baldwin’s homosexuality and its influence on his thought. The correspondences between aspects of African American experience and sexual minority experience are there to find but, in 1971, they are unaddressed. Today—and here is some hope—intersectionality is a regular subject. If Baldwin and Giovanni could talk now, they’d likely have a field day with it. LESSONS IN SURVIVAL has a sort of amber glory: yellow from age but still very, very bright. It’s terrific political theatre.

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