Last night I attended an interesting multi-media piece on "redevelopment and securing history" at the Public Theater in NYC. It was called Architecting. Stay with me. The play centers around a young white architect who's been hired to redevelop a neighborhood in post-Katrina New Orleans. Still with me? The architect is kidnapped by a group of locals who decide to teach her a lesson on the importance of preserving history. Now this is where it gets interesting: one of the kidnappers [also white] transforms into Gone With The Wind's Margaret Mitchell [yes, there's a bit of fantasy in the play] and continually asks the question, "Is history so wrong?" Many of you don't have the means [or the desire] to travel to NYC to see this piece, so I'll explain it a bit more in detail. The architect is uninterested in the history of New Orleans and simply wants to "do her job and redevelop", but she's thrown into a tizzy when she's accosted by Margaret Mitchell, Mammy and Rhett Butler with their relentless demand for her to appreciate the South, to refrain from judging its old ways and respect people's imperfect attempt to express their humanity. Among the many questions posed in the play, ultimately, I believe, the play is asking what part of the South [or history] do you preserve and what part do you relinquish? Can you wipe away the poverty of a people without wiping away the music and culture that's forged from such conditions? Do you preserve a historical entity that represents a city [or people] when that entity's legacy is built on blood and hatred and racism? Got any answers?
Keith Josef Adkins is an award-winning playwright, screenwriter and social commentator.