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The Resurrection of Aretha Franklin in ‘Amazing Grace’

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Aretha Franklin in Sydney Pollack’s Amazing Grace.

In an interview as part of HBO’s 2008 documentary series The Blacklist, playwright Suzan-Lori Parks used some of her time to talk about black people and our tendency to be active participants in our entertainment, regardless of the venue. She recalls how, when her 2001 Pulitzer Prize-winning play Topdog/Underdog first hit Broadway, black attendees showed up late and didn’t turn their phones off. They wore baggy jeans to Broadway and shouted at the action unfolding on the stage. Recalling the zeal of these crowds, Parks insisted that we need to celebrate and seek such moments, and to treat them with as much reverence as whatever is prompting them from the stage or screen.

I like this idea—that it’s noble for black people to react viscerally to work that is created for us, and to respond in a language we know well. This dialogue between performer and audience is perhaps best understood in the context of the black church, where one’s exuberant behavior can be easily forgiven—or at least ascribed to one’s being carried away by the music, or the spirt, or both at the same time. That ethos spills out of the church into living rooms during movie nights with friends or in a whole movie theater with strangers, where my pals shout at the screen during Girl’s Trip or a Fast and Furious movie. There is something valuable about wanting the small world around you to know how richly you are being moved, so that maybe some total stranger might encounter your stomp, your clap, your shout, and find themselves moved.



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Thanks !

Thanks for sharing this, you are awesome !