"Real girls' talk" : a dramaturgy of witness and survival

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Randle, Gabrielle Erin

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Nina Simone and Lorraine Hansberry became good friends during the last few years of Hansberry’s life. In this thesis I argue, that their relationship served as a catalyst for both of their revolutionary performances of survival. The Simone-Hansberry friendship almost always warrants a mention in any publication about one woman or the other. However, their friendship almost never warrants more than a mention. Little space is given to the revolutionary fact that two talented Black women, both fiercely independent and self-proclaimed loners, found each other and loved each other and that that love made a difference in the nation. This thesis is an exploration of their friendship through the revolutionary lens of conscious dramaturgy. I ask the question: How did they bear witness to each other? And how was their witness a performative act of revolution? I am interested in the performative marginality that surrounds the language of testimony; the act of bearing witness. In particular, I highlight the Black woman’s struggle against her immense vulnerability to natal alienation and social death. I look to the public testimony (a term that encompasses performance, speech, and written text) of Nina Simone and Lorraine Hansberry—and some of my own testimony—and seek to explore how vulnerability to violence and alienation is occasionally upended by the possibility of transcendence and revolutionary social change through the performance of witnessing.


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