Writer and actor Taji Senior has spent some of her time in lockdown creating a new version of her solo show amendment: the making of an american myth, or the slow sipping of a peacock tea.
“Originally, I wrote this three years ago,” Senior says of the piece. “And it’s the very first solo thing I’d ever written. And each time I come back to this piece … it becomes something drastically different. It went from like three monologues to an hour-long show.”
Senior says that amendment changes over time as she herself changes.
“I’ve been reading… Dorothy E. Roberts’ Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty,” she says. “And it’s this book wherein she examines the ways in which Black women have been left off of traditional feminist agendas [and] the way reproductive rights have been left off traditional civil rights agendas. So I’ve been reading that and thinking a lot about that and obviously thinking a lot about my own experience as a Black person and as a woman and what it means to be both of those things.”
When she began working on this new version of the show, Senior says she didn’t know exactly where the process would take her.
“So much of this show is about motherhood and about maternity, and I didn’t anticipate that when I sat down to make those edits, but I feel like it makes more sense now, at thirty-one, that I’d be writing about those things.”
Not a mother herself, Senior says she drew inspiration in part from mothers she knows, including her own. “I’ve been thinking a lot about lineage lately,” she says, adding with a laugh, “Thinking about being in quarantine, I feel like the number one question everyone is asking themselves is who am I? I think looking at my own mother and having a better understanding of who she is as a person in the world and not just my mom. And thinking about my own mother as a Black woman.”
Senior says that when she was younger she mostly thought of her mother as just a mom, she’s now able to see her as a more complete person of her own. “Who might my mother be, what might my relationship with my mother be like if we didn’t live in a world that devalues and erases Black women?” she asks.
But Senior didn’t stop at her own mother when drawing inspiration for amendment.
“I’ve also been thinking about the enslaved women that we don’t know,” she says. “And the reality of it is that I’m a Black American, and so there is a [high] probability that I come from a lineage of an enslaved people. And I’m not embarrassed or ashamed about that. That’s a source of pride, because it’s a miracle. Like, Blackness is an impossibility. You know, when we think about the failed projects of Black liberation from Reconstruction to the Jim Crow south … Black people should not be here. We just shouldn’t. But we are. And that is without question because of Black women. Not singularly, not solely, but largely in part to the endurance, the resilience, the heartache, the triumph, the grief. Everything about Black women is why Black people are here.”
Director Si Mon’ Emmett was eager to sign on to work on the show, but wasn’t quite sure how large the production would turn out to be. “[It’s] evolved into this, basically, a full production in the middle of a pandemic,” she says. “Which feels crazy!”
Emmett also adds that during the rehearsal process, the crew has been very careful to stay socially distant and to wear masks.
“And lots and lots and lots of Zoom calls and lots and lots and lots of emails,” she says. “It’s been a pretty beautiful process to watch the script evolve and just watch everyone on the team just ‘yes and’ everything, and just give their whole heart to it and just be excited about this project.”
'amendment: the making of an american myth, or the slow sipping of a peacock tea' will be performed as a livestream on Aug. 21 at salvagevanguard.org and as a drive-in performance on Aug. 22 and 23 at Rogge Ranch.