Selma-spray the Musical
Even though it’s been a solid 48 hours since we performed the super fun play Hairspray, I still can’t stop singing ‘Without Love,’ which was one of the final scenes where Tracy/Link and Penny/Seaweed openly confess their love for each other despite all the barriers in place to keep them apart. My favorite lines are each character’s comparisons to what life would be like without love. Seaweed describes it as “a prom that won’t invite [him and Penny]”, Link vainly describes it as his “big break with laryngitis” and Tracy says its like her “mother on a diet.” Then my favorite part, the last chorus hook shindig describes it as “like a week with only Mondays,” which in my opinion is the most perfect comparison of all. All in all, each line says the same thing about love: it’s like that extra topping that makes the main dish all the worth while.
In a lot of ways, the love referred to in the song could even be used to describe general happiness. It’s one thing to live but it’s another thing to live a life filled with purpose, joy, fulfillment, etc. I think that in addition to the racial tensions that Hairspray talks about it, it’s also a play with undertones about finding personal fulfillment in life. And in a place like Selma, even in a place like Northern Virginia, it is all too common to go day in and day out living without a reason for doing so.
The parallels drawn between Baltimore in the 60s and present day Selma are almost eerily identical. The Nicest Kids in Town represented the white community while the Motor Mouth detention dancers represented the black community. Tracy, who could be considered an outsider for her lack of belonging in either specific community, was comparable to RATco/Freedom Foundation. She was new, fresh and had a different perspective on how life should be lived. While she was white, she was made fun of in the movie for her size and clothing style. Regardless, her good heart and intentions overshadowed her seemingly odd appearance.
Like Tracy, the organizations I’ve worked with this summer don’t really fit into a particular category because their message resonates with a deeper community: the human community. Their appearance is seemingly odd, composed of volunteers from various states and backgrounds whose purpose is so strong that their differences in appearance are often looked over because their message is clearer: equality for all because human rights are important. It’s beautiful and powerful and even though Selma does not end in an integrated dance show, the work being done is in hopes of a more integrated Selma, where churches aren’t so clearly defined with skin colored borders.
After the show, there was an odd sense of returning to reality even though we never really left it. For a few hours after we performed ‘You Can’t Stop the Beat,’ I felt lost. All the actors and actresses went home and many of the interns returned home. It was like even though we performed this huge play with this huge message, we were in a time limbo where I felt like we could make direct change through theatrical songs. In some ways, we could. Songs like “I know where I’ve been” and “You Can’t Stop the Beat” likely encouraged people to stop and ask themselves what they were still fighting for in their lives. Performing Hairspray made me re-realize how much bigger we all are than we think.
For me personally, the end of Hairspray gave me time to reflect on why I came to Selma and what kind of difference I wanted to make. Although my fellowship was almost over, it was a surreal theatrical reminder that these two months were just power blocks in my long but rewarding journey of being a human rights activist.
Andeulazia Hughes-Murdock ’18