November 09, 2009

Preview of Carbon Black

Terry Gomez Premieres Carbon Black at Native Voices

By Ashley Steed[T]he core of the story is a mother’s relationship to her adolescent son. What is especially powerful for Gomez is “the worry parents have about their children.” Those were the catalysts along with the media coverage and fear following the 9/11 attacks. “If you’re not careful,” she warns, “you can really become crazy if you listen to everything.”

For the agoraphobic mother Sylvie, that’s exactly what she did. “Someone like Sylvie, she’s trapped inside the house and she has [the news] on like it’s a companion.”
Some background on playwright Terry Gomez:Gomez grew up in a small town in Oklahoma. “In the Native communities, storytelling is in our background. My family did that. We would gather at one of our grandmothers’ houses and the adults would tell stories of our family history, people in the community; funny stories about people.” Growing up in that environment, Gomez always knew she wanted to be a writer.

However, it almost didn’t become a reality. When Gomez was 17 she went to a special program for Natives in Boulder, Colorado, which turned out disappointing. “I handed in my story. Then they called me into the principal’s office.” Thinking they were going to congratulate her on a great story, she went in. “They asked, ‘Where did you copy this story from?’ I replied, ‘I didn’t; this is about my grandmother.’ I wrote specifically about the land we grew up on. I wrote specifically about her as a person, it was very detailed. The Native TA said, ‘You’re lying, I’ve read this before.’ It really freaked me out. I had no idea what to do so I dropped out. I was really disheartened.”
The play's Native subtext:Although this play isn’t about race, Gomez writes with it in the subtext. “I write my characters from the point of view of a Native woman, there’s no way I couldn’t.” The character of Ms. Yellowtree is the only character written specifically as a Native person. “We are in every aspect of society and in the work force but we’re still not seen that way,” stresses Gomez. “Either we’re invisible or seen as a stereotype. Ms. Yellowtree… she’s a competent parent, a competent employee, very compassionate and she’s living right here, right now. She’s very much in society.”

Humor also plays an invaluable role in the story. “Native people in general use a lot of humor to talk about our condition. We’ve had a very traumatic history,” she admits. “I tried to bring [humor] out in my characters. There needs to be something to lighten it.”
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Developing Carbon Black and Native Plays and Other Stage Shows.

Below:  Michael Drummand as Inky and Sheila Tousey as Sylvia Black.

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