Liza Jessie Peterson
What was the inspiration behind Sistergurls and the Squirrel and where does this play sit in relation to the LJP canon?
My Aunt Marie was the inspiration for the main character. She was a stone cold hustler and ran a business from her living room, and we all worked for her at some point. August Wilson's Jitney was the other inspiration. I loved seeing how different relationships between men intersect in a depot.
[The play] is an ensemble spin off from one of my characters, Karmica SutraQuita Jones, who appears in my One Woman Show Chiron's Homegurl Healer Howls. Sistergurl shit talking truth telling dramedy...the LJP canon ;)
Speaking of your one woman show, how has this process of putting Sistergurls and the Squirrel on the page differed from your previous creative processes?
Writing an ensemble play is really different from writing my one woman shows primarily with structure, character, conflict, and the reveals. In my solo shows the characters say what they gotta say and rarely encounter the other characters. In this ensemble piece they're all in the room together, talking shit, arguing simultaneously with secrets while dropping popcorn trails that lead to explosive reveals, all while pushing the narrative of story. Kinda different.
This year the New Black Fest is centered around "Black Love, Black Space, and Solidarity." What does Black Love, Black Space, and Solidarity mean to you personally and in what ways does your work reflect these three, what I’m going to call, ways of being?
Black love and space and solidarity is messy. It's not all fuzzy wuzzy kumbaya, but rather it is the sacred space where we get to be vulnerable together without the white gaze, and argue, fuss, challenge, interrogate, reflect, take ownership of our violence, and allow space for redemption all while leaning on each other... and of course talking shit along the way, laughing loud, eating collard greens together in the kitchen with some yak listening to Aretha or Wutang. It means moving together towards healing our collective (and personal) wounds and teaching the babies knowledge of self so they have a head start on self love.
What are your goals going into the week of rehearsals for The New Black Fest at The Lark?
To hear and let the play breathe in order to gather information to go back into the woodshed and craft it more.