This past weekend, I had the chance to go to the theatre—Atlanta’s Alliance Theatre—to see “What I Learned in Paris” by Pearl Cleage. This outing was a gift to my mother for her birthday. We went together along with a very close friend who was visiting me for the weekend. The three of us sat in the theatre, which was filled with women of all ages, races, and cultures, and were transported back in time to 1973. I was a young child in the 70s. I grew up in Atlanta, but I have no memory of the politics or what it meant to Atlantans to elect its first black mayor, Maynard Jackson. Today, I can only imagine what my parents must have felt then.
“What I Learned in Paris” gave me a glimpse into the thoughts and feelings of young black men and women who played a significant role in Maynard’s campaign and the black community during this time of change. The sights and sounds from the stage reminded me of why Pearl Cleage is one of my favorite authors. Her writings are so vivid. She makes it easy to see inside her characters and the world in which they live.
The play is for anyone who cares to see it. But it’s wonderfully uplifting for women. I think any woman would take something valuable away from the experience. I was fortunate enough to visit Paris a few years ago. It was five days of wonder for me, and I don’t think it was just because it was my first time out of the country. I was nervous on the overnight flight there from Dallas, Texas. I was excited when I landed and walked through the Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport. But once I found myself on the streets of Paris, I felt more at home than I could explain. After five days, I declared that I could easily see myself living there. Evie, one of Cleage’s characters, revived the feeling of freedom I felt while walking the streets of Paris.
If you have a chance to see the play, it’s worth it. I wish I could recall the exact line in the play that resonated with me the most, but all I can offer is the essence of what Evie had to say to all women: It’s your right to go into the world and find your own spark!
If you have a chance to see the play, I’d love to hear about your experience!