Following the remarkable success of her play No Child…, OBIE Award-winning writer and performer Nilaja Sun writes for Culture ahead of the Irish premiere of her latest one-woman show, Pike St, which plays at Smock Alley Theatre from 2-6 Oct as part of this year's Dublin Theatre Festival.
I was born in New York. I was bred in New York. I live in New York. I can find inspiration in the craziness of its beat and solace in its midnight hum. Its energy is in my DNA and so it follows me on stage. The city that never sleeps can seem overwhelming for some but if you really listen, she will quietly tell you her stories. From Harlem to Coney Island, the South Bronx to Jackson Heights, she recounts the lives of so many of us who have come from away and she is proud to call us her children.
This is a pivotal time in America. The outsider is judged, the immigrant is imprisoned, the unknown shunned. I have lived my life both on and off stage telling the stories of invisible New Yorkers who live unseen and unheard. This is a pivotal time for artists in America. Do we tune out and hashtag our disgust at how things are panning out or do we employ our gifts of compassion, empathy and clear seeing to tell the truth on stage and off? We've read about times like these, when our ancestors, foremothers and forefathers bore the weight of history on their backs and now here we are. I ask myself, 'Who am I to be now that we are here?' I have chosen to keep open my eyes and heart. My soul. And though it is painful every day to stay "woke", I find solace in the artists who have come before me. They bore witness to their important place in the world. They knew art healed. And, I know it too.
The city that never sleeps can seem overwhelming for some but if you really listen, she will quietly tell you her stories.
Pike St. bears witness to a Puerto Rican family living in a low lying area of New York on the day of a massive hurricane. One of the central characters is Candi, a teenager. Stricken by a brain aneurysm 4 years ago, she is dependent on life-sustaining equipment to breathe. As the hurricane nears and warnings to move to higher ground loom, what choice can she and her family make when hard times and lack of access and mobility are a daily reality?
As the planet continues to warm and our Mother Earth attacked daily, we are seeing just how devastating it can be for all of us, especially those souls living in low lying, open to the elements and poverty-stricken neighborhoods, towns and cities around the world. Pike St. asks the question "Where are they supposed to go?"
Nilaja Sun's Pike St. is at Smock Alley Theatre from 2-6 Oct as part of this year's Dublin Theatre Festival - find out more here.