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Myth, Magic, and Farce

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Sterling Houston is an innovative African American writer whose plays are known for biting social commentary combined with eye-popping theatricality. Despite many successful productions, his work has never before been widely available in print. The four plays in this collection represent Houston's full range of themes and styles. High Yello Rose deflates the Alamo myth by casting the heroes' parts entirely with women. Isis in Nubia is a love story that sets the Isis/Osiris myth in West Africa. Black Lily and White Lily is a realistic domestic drama exploring racial tensions. Miranda Rites returns to Houston's broadly farcical style, enacting Martha Mitchell's last days in a hospital, where she hallucinates about Marilyn Monroe and Dorothy Dandridge, and is escorted to the underworld by Carmen Miranda. "It is up to the artists to be the healers, the visionaries, to retell our stories so that they resurrect us. This is what Sterling does when he collects the lives fallen and forgotten between the cracks. What a marvelous gift Sterling has given to American culture by remembering, and not remembering as some do with retribution, but with wisdom, humor, generosity, and heart. For his labor and research, for his lifework and lovework, I am not only deeply grateful, but inspired."--Sandra Cisneros, author of The House on Mango Street and Caramelo

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High Yello Rose

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High Yello Rose

(Una Legeñda Verdadera de la Revolucion de Tejas)

Written in collaboration with Arnold Aprill

High Yello Rose was first presented by Jump-Start Performance

Company on April 27, 1992, with the following cast:

Gertrude E. Baker Joe John Joshua

Deborah Basham

Eastern Lady, Texian Soldier

Col. Morgan, Old Anglo Woman

Kim Corbin

Emily Morgan, David Crockett

Felice Garcia

Magdalena, Santanista Soldier

Veronica Gonzales General Santa Anna

Katherine Griffith General Sam Houston

Cathleen Pollock

Eastern Lady, Texian Soldier

Lisa Suarez

Concepcion, Miguelito, Santanista Soldier

Directed by Arnold Aprill and Sterling Houston

Production Design by Robert Rehm

Lighting Design by Max Parrilla

High Yello Rose was also presented in the fall of 1993 with the original cast at the Planet Theater in Austin, Texas. In August of 1998 a performance was commissioned by ATHE (Association of Theater in

Higher Education) at Jump-Start Theater for its annual conference in San Antonio.

Characters:

EMILY

“High yellow” woman, indentured servant

 

Isis in Nubia

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Isis in Nubia

a tale of ancient Africa

Isis in Nubia was first presented on May 26, 1994, at the Carver

Cultural Center, San Antonio, Texas, with the following cast:

Robert Aden

Malacandar, Wizard, Old Soldier

Gertrude E. Baker

Priestess, Ishtar, Nile Woman

Donald Bouldin

Priest, Hapsut, Young Soldier

Xavier Cerda

Young Soldier, Nubian Man

Kim Corbin

Nephthys, Nubian Girl

Kevin Evans

Praise Singer, Gilgamesh, Horus

T-Bow Gonzales

Osiris

Mak Hall

Seth

Allana X. Schulman Weaver, Nile Woman

Cassandra Small

Isis

Michael Verdi

Anubis

Kitty Williams

Priestess, Kali, Nile Woman

Directed by Sterling Houston

Production Design by Robert Rehm

Costume Design by Kim Corbin

Lighting Design by Max Parilla and Steve Bailey

Characters:

SETH

God of Night, Revenge and Darkness, brother of Osiris

OSIRIS

God of the Dead, Fertility and Rebirth

ISIS

Goddess of Morning, Harvest, wife of Osiris

HORUS

Warrior God, son of Osiris and Isis

NEPHTHYS

Sister of Isis and Osiris and wife of Seth

ANUBIS

Son of Nephthys

ISHTAR

Queen of Syria

MALACANDER King of Syria

HAPSUT

 

Black Lily and White Lily

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Black Lily and White Lily

Prologue

(A pile of clothes spills out from an open suitcase. LILY MAE is putting on a dress over her head at lights up.)

LILY WINSLOW: That’s it. Now turn around. (L.M. moves.) No, faster. Twirl around.

LILY MAE: Twirl around? (She spins until almost dizzy.)

L.W.: That’s enough, now don’t overdo it.

L.M.: I really like this color, Mrs. Winslow. It brings out my skin tone.

L.W.: Now, put on the jacket. Yes, and let it kind of fall off your shoulders, casual like. That’s right. Now walk over there and turn around.

(L.M. does action.)

L.M.: Like this?

L.W.: That’s enough now. Take it off. I don’t want to look at it any more. It reminds me of something. Something . . .

L.M.: Something sad?

L.W.: Why no. Eh, something wonderful . . .

L.M.: Like what, if I may be so bold.

L.W.: Lily Mae, you know that a real lady never reveals all her secrets. Not even to her dearest friend.

L.M.: Am I your dearest friend?

L.W.: Well, I don’t know who is if you’re not. Why else would I be giving you all these lovely things? Yes, that dress is better. Turn, turn. I associate it with calmer memories.

 

Miranda Rites

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Miranda Rites

Prologue

(MARTHA is on the phone talking to an old friend.)

MARTHA: They needn’t have gone to all that trouble to kill me, you know. I wanted to die. I really did. I’ve attempted suicide on a regular basis over the past few years, but have so far succeeded only in killing myself by painful inches. Once I knew I was dying, hell, it was a relief. No more worrying about bills, the press, my hair, the decline of American life. What’s death to a Christian, anyway, but endless peace after a lifetime of suffering? And what woman has suffered more than me? My husband doesn’t love me, I mean, my “ex.” The bastard. He’s turned my own child against me. Maybe I could have done better by her, but she doesn’t understand the constant pressure of being in the national spotlight. I see it all so clearly now that all the cards are on the table. I begged him to move back with me to 5th Avenue, where we could live like normal people. I told him point-blank I would leave him if he didn’t. And I meant it. It was Mr. President or me. He made his choice as you know, and now I’m in the cold without a pot to pee in. The downright cruelty of it. The bastard has cut off my MasterCards and all accounts. Yes, I have my own money, several thousands at home in Pine Bluff. I’d get it out in a minute if I could remember the name of the bank. I’m losing my mind along with everything else. Meanwhile, I have to beg for groceries, when I’m strong enough to eat. I have no man to care for me. I, who collected men’s hearts like butterflies.

 

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