5 Questions with Jae Gayle
Creative Action Unlimited’s artistic director Michael Kennedy encourages their theater makers to contribute their own stories to develop stage and film works centering around social justice. After Jae Gayle submitted a monologue entitled “Sincerely” dealing with her reaction to her son’s predominantly white school’s response to a police shooting of a Black young man to CAU’s 2021 film “The Climb,” Kennedy encouraged Gayle to expand the piece and work with an ensemble of mothers to look at the intersections of motherhood, race, and politics which became “MA’Space.” Here are my 5 questions with Jae.
PW: How did you get involved with Creative Action Unlimited?
JG: I worked with Michael Kennedy at NYSTI a thousand years ago, more like 20. I moved back to the area with my three kids and posted on Facebook that I thought I might like to perform again. Michael wasted no time sending me the audition notice for The Climb.
PW: What was the impetus behind “MA’Space”?
JG: My oldest son was in first grade. After yet another shooting, this might have been the Amari one; his school emailed parents resources to discuss trauma. They made absolutely no mention of race or the complexity of the situation. That’s what parents need to help their children navigate. I got so mad because it was this reminder that I was given the responsibility of helping EJ and AJ survive and navigate other people’s BS. NO INSTITUTION was going to make space for their feelings, emotions, or even ideas. Black parents have been dealing with these issues since 1619. White parents get to choose the bubbles they place their kids in. And then those kids grow up. And then we have a sociopolitical climate like we currently do. Sigh.
Because I wait for no saviors on this earthy plane anyway, I’m doing the work my dang self and enlisting other moms to join me. That is how “MA’Space” came to be. It is my beginning action.
PW: What have you learned that surprised you about yourself or the process of creating this show?
JG: The fact that there IS a show is wild to me. I have never before considered myself a playwright or a director. This process has revealed that there are levels to my own creativity I haven’t even begun to tap into yet. That’s been totally thrilling.
PW: What’s a play that changed your life?
JG: “A Raisin in the Sun” by Lorraine Hansberry and “The Gingham Dog” by Lanford Wilson. I read “A Raisin in the Sun” one summer afternoon because I had nothing better to do. I was 13. It was on the shelf, and I fell in love with Beneatha. Her fire is something I still draw on when I need it. And Gloria, from “The Gingham Dog,” oh, she is fabulous. She has this monologue that ends with the line “I want a child so black he’s blue.” I could play the hell out of Gloria.
PW: What is another theme or topic that you can see as a worthy subject for creating a show out of?
JG: I have been really into American Sign Language as a language and medium to explore on stage. I love the idea of working with deaf/hearing impaired performers and hearing performers taking a backseat for once. I would need to do a ton more research, but something is rolling around in my brain.
“MA’Space” is at the James L. Meader Little Theatre on Russell Sage’s Troy campus on 2/24, 2/25, 3/3 & 3/4 at 7:30 pm and 2/25 & 3/4 at 2 pm. https://MASpace.eventbrite.com