Vinegar Hill took some time to talk with David Straughn about ‘Pipeline’ a stageplay that he directed at Live Arts Theather in Charlottesville.
Directed by David Straughn and written by Dominique Morisseau, Pipeline is an immersive live theatre experience. The piece centers around the story of a mother and son as they wrestle with the struggles associated with being Black and navigating the American educational system. Emphasizing the impact of the ”school-to-prison pipeline”, it intimately details the real-life struggles and frustrations.
This piece was extremely personal for David who says that he sees himself in this play in a lot of ways. The frustration that develops because of the unrealistic expectations of young Black men in American society can be daunting but David says that this anger is very nuanced.
“I just really gravitated to and resonated with the subject matter in the piece,” he says. “I am passionate about these things. I’m not angry. I am angry that I can’t do more. But my rage is not in a place of malice or violence. It is in a place of confusion and frustration”. This is frustration that he has sought to enliven in this new production, hoping that it will serve as a means to connect with audiences and effectively shed light on the matter.
A well-known performer, writer, and director who has worked in theater, music, and the literary arts, David Straughn has made the artistic expression on stage his life’s work. But what made him choose the performing arts was when he witnessed his older sister on stage.
David recounts watching his sister deliver a poem by Zora Neale Hurston, saying, “I remember she did it at school in our auditorium, and everybody was on the edge of their seat… and that made me realize the power of theater and getting a message across, making people listen to you”. Through this experience, David realized the power of theater and the power it had to transform the hearts and minds of people.
It’s as if David has been doing this for a lifetime already. His first encounter was a performance he did at Thomas Jefferson Elementary School in Louisa as a young man. This proved to be transformative for him. Detailing his first-ever experience with showmanship, David says it was then that he had his first true encounter with theater, and that sparked his interest in what it had to offer. He recalls walking on stage for the first time and thinking “Oh, this feels good. Feels real good.” For David, the prospect of having everyone looking at and focusing on his every move was less than daunting and more empowering.
A Few Shows Left
As for ‘Pipeline‘, the production will run until January 30th at Live Arts in Charlottesville and includes a talent-driven cast through the likes of Aiyana Marcus (Nya), Asyra Cunningham (Omari), Jamie Virostko (Laurie), Tanaka Maria (Jasmine) and Sarad Davenport (Xavier), among other talented performers and volunteers.
A common thread of hope runs throughout David’s work, and he hopes this piece will connect audiences to each other in a way never thought possible, providing not only hope but also inspiration.
David expressed a great sense of responsibility as a director and performer with holding the legacy of those who came before him.
Find out more about Pipeline here: http://livearts.org/pipeline/
(There are a few limited live-streaming options available.)