Presented by Puppet Showplace Theater
Created by Tarish “Jeghetto” Pipkins
Musical score by Shana Tucker
Eulogy written and narrated by Tommy Noonan
Puppeteers: John Reagan, Elbert Joseph, Scotty Swan, Brenda Ray, Roxanna Myhrum, Tarish Pipkins
Tech by Brad Shur
Critique by Kitty Drexel
Trigger warnings: gunshots, graphic images of violence, wypipo fuckery
(Brookline, MA) The United States has an historic problem of white violence against people of color that stretches to today. Anyone looking for proof need only search today’s newspaper. Just Another Lynching: An American Horror Story reminds us with shocking clarity just how little things have changed for People of Color in the US.
It is 1921, early Century Oklahoma and the Tulsa Race Riots have just been quieted by an indifferent white government. Thousands of Black Americans, residents of the Greenwood, the Black Wall Street have lost their homes to white vigilante violence. In Just Another Lynching, we meet Jessie as he delivers a eulogy for Cornelius Jones. Jessie, a white kid, and “Corn,” a black boy, were friends growing up. Jessie tells us of their similarities, and their shared histories. The audience learns that Jones was viciously murdered by Klan members who felt threatened by Jones’ Black prosperity. The lynch mob drew him from his home, tied him to a tree and let gravity and their guns do the rest. The show run approximately 30 minutes with a near-mandatory feedback session immediately after.
Tarish Pipkins is a self-taught artist who has created exquisite art from his lived experiences. Just Another Lynching uses voice over, slideshow, and stark lighting to frame Pipkins’ black and white puppetry. The puppets require several people at a time to manipulate, and a community of artists to perform a show. It’s a microcosm of social give and take. It is beautiful in its complexities.
Shana Tuckers’ cover of “Strange Fruit” chills the bones. This rendition as well as the other musical interludes bring into sharp focus the great tragedy of Southern America’s history. This music is entertainment the way the torture of Black bodies was entertainment to Southern whites. Be warned, this show isn’t light entertainment. Nothing in this show is light.
During the feedback session, attendees are encouraged to use “I feel…” language. Please do. The performance will unpack a lot of emotional baggage. What you know about freedom in the US will be replaced with new truths. We might have been created equal but we aren’t treated that way by each other. Talk, absorb, learn.
What attendees should not do is touch performers without explicit permission. A request for a handshake from Pipkins by a white attendee was turned into an uncomfortable hug. I repeat, white people do not touch Black people. We still live in a time when Black people could die if they touched a white person. For a white person to do so is a blatant abuse of privilege and a message that your entitlement is more important than a Black person’s autonomy. Don’t clap if two people of different races hug. It’s not the symbol for racial understanding you think it is. And for Heaven’s sake, don’t call the police on Black people living while Black. Mind your own damn business.
True events of casual, white barbarianism have been erased from historic records to protect the dominant race. Just Another Lynching should be taught in schools. That it, art like it, or even basic historical facts are not is a symptom of systemic racism. That American history is taught without the including the truth of violence white American has perpetrated against Black America means that the public and private school system has been sanitized to maintain white fragility. Fellow white people, it’s time we started talking about white on white crime.