By Charles Hallman
Kloie Rush-Spratt’s first play, Pecan Brown and the 7…’s, is about dealing “with a world full of racial biases.” Her one-act play is part of the 2014 Minneapolis Fringe Festival.
Rush-Spratt explained that after watching a 2012 remake of Snow White got her thinking about why films can’t be more diverse. “I’ve always been thinking about racial biases in film and literature since the eighth grade,” she points out. Late last year, she proposed her idea for a play to address the film industry’s reluctance to produce more films that are culturally reflective of people like herself to BriAnna McCurry, both of whom are 2013 Minneapolis South High School graduates. “My sister told me to write a Fringe play. This is the first thing I’ve come up with to do,” says Rush-Spratt.
She and McCurry then applied for the Fringe Festival, and ended up on a wait list: “They have a real long wait list… we were number 17,” adds Rush-Spratt, a sophomore at Franklin University in Lugano, Switzerland. “Two weeks later we were in.”
McCurry, a Minneapolis Community and Technical College student, directed Pecan Brown. She’s the perfect director, says Rush-Spratt, who was impressed with her friend’s directing skills after watching her work in school plays. “I got to see how great a director she was. If I know there was one person I trusted in this process, especially the racial justice issue, it would be her,” she states.
“I found the idea real interesting. I was all on board,” says McCurry, who adds that she acts as well — a “critical artist” is how she describes herself: “I think art is a way to [connect to] past culture,” she points out. “I think art is a way to recognize culture, delve into culture and deconstruct it… The story is just [about] culture.”
Being a Black actress and writer Pecan Brown “is a struggle, but it is a struggle I will have to deal with my whole life,” continues Rush-Spratt. “I wanted to be an actress since I was eight. When I was younger, I was a huge teen romance fan.” However, she also discovered while growing up that her fellow schoolmates could relate to such stories, but not she because “of how I look.” It was the same when it came to most movies, she notes.
Film genres are “color labeled,” continues the playwright. “If you’re Black or a person of color, you get the movies about your struggle. If you’re White, you can get the sci-fi, western [and] drama.”
“A lot of movies have the illusion of diversity but it’s exactly that — an illusion,” adds McCurry.
The one-hour play features “a pretty strong ensemble cast,” says Rush-Spratt on the 13-person cast. “Our two stars are women of color. All the supporting characters are all White characters. Almost everything we’ve done in the play is done with a purpose.
“Recognizing that a big part of the Fringe [Festival] audience is White,” she points out, “we are not bashing anyone. That is not the intent. We are trying to make it relatable, to create more awareness.”
McCurry adds, “I don’t think any work that alienates any group of people is going to be effective because that is not we are trying to do. We are interested in bringing people together for discussion and have a little bit of honesty… But you can’t control your audience, or your audience’s background. I think — I know I can count on [however] some people being alienated by this play.
“The goal that we are working toward is to get a community of people that are able to translate pieces of work… and have a conversation,” says McCurry.
With the play recently premiering (July 31), Rush-Spratt says, “I keep forgetting that this is a big thing I’ve accomplished. Something as simple as this has given me some satisfaction. People are going to see it — whether it is only 10 people [that] show up for every performance — but someone is seeing it. What I want is [to show] that people of color can be stars of their own show.”
“It would be cool [someday] to look for ourselves, for us as people we can identify with,” concludes McCurry. “It would be cool as a world when we can get to a place where I can look at an Asian man walking down the street [on film] and still see me, to see us in him.”
The 2014 Fringe Festival runs through August 10. For information on show Pecan Brown and the 7…’s show locations and times, go to www.fringefestival.org/.
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to [email protected]