On a sultry night, Evie Madison (Crystal Fox) was sitting alone in a restaurant and saw a sexy sister sipping on wine with a sophisticated but sensual look in the city of love: Paris. After close inspection she noticed this woman was her reflection in the mirror across the room. This is but one lesson shared in Pearl Cleage’s play What I Learned in Paris, that we can become the person we want to be.
According to Cleage, the idea of this play came on the night of the election of Barack Obama when he waved from the stage in Grant field in Chicago. Yes, Obama was the President-Elect, but Cleage saw on the stage Michelle, Sasha, and Melia and noted that the life of this average Chicago family was going to change forever.
Cleage was part of a transformation campaign in 1973 when then 35 year old Maynard Jackson became Atlanta’s first black mayor. The then 25 year old naive Cleage suddenly became part of city hall as the Mayor’s press spokesperson. She recalls the moment she realized that her actions went beyond herself, but represented her boss, the mayor. So she had to be on her best behavior but this is better said than done.
In What I Learn in Paris, the characters are placed in the backdrop of the victory of Maynard Jackson’s 1973 mayoral race. Even though Jackson does not make an appearance on stage, his larger than life persona is ever-present. What you discover is that even though you can change the players in city hall, the lives of those participants continue to exist in the messy day-to-day world called life.
Sex, innuendo, and a little naughtiness makes What I Learned in Paris a fun peek into the grown and sexy world of the swinging 1970s. You really can’t fight city hall, so why not just become a part of it?
What I Learned in Paris is the season opener for the Alliance Theatre and is also a Pearl Cleage world premier. Cleage is an Atlanta treasure and her stories help us reflect on our own lives in which we can dialogue and in turn build a better community around us.
I enjoyed this play so much that I would not mind seeing it again. The set is cool and flows with the ins and outs of these talented actors that create a believable world and look back into the go-go world of the 1970s. It will make you smile, smirk, and maybe shed a little tear but in the end it all seems to work out.
For details and information on What I Learned in Paris, click here.
Note that there are many opportunities to interact with Pearl Cleage, bring your book club along, or simply make it an exciting outing for any special occasion. Check the website for details for this fabulous opportunity.
Dr. Wilson Trivino is a speaker and writer, follow him on Twitter @T4Vista