Imagining Happy Endings: Unrealistic or Necessary?

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By D Adams

On first Thursday my course Black Feminist Theory taught by Professor Heidi R Lewis had the pleasure of attending “American Prom” by Idris Goodwin. As I had not had the pleasure of seeing an Idris Goodwin production since his departure, my excitement much like those of the theatre and the rest of my classmates was palpable. “American Prom,” an original production by Idris Goodwin takes place in Principle, a small American town located in anywhere USA, that features a coming of age story. In Principle, Jimmy T Jr a teenaged white boy wants to take his childhood best friend Kia a black teenage girl to their first prom. However, proms in Principle have been segregated since the beginning of time, often with the excuse that people tend to keep to their own. In a play filled with magic and music, Kia and Jimmy dare to imagine Principle in a different light and confront the issues of race in their town while discovering truths about themselves. Throughout the play Jimmy and Kia have confrontations with their parents over the state of Principle as well as issues dealing with racism, segregation, sexuality and homophobia all working to push them to find ways of dealing with these problems. In an effort to avoid spoilers, I will leave it at that.

As I sat in the theatre amongst my classmates, I became very intrigued with the notion of reimagining a future and preoccupied with who is allowed to have a happy ending in fiction and in real life.  While many parts of the play I found entertaining the ending is what lead me to the questions I have now. Was this ending realistic? Was it not? And what pushes me to question the way things ended? I left the play thinking the ending was “wishful thinking” but as I sat in my room and ruminated over it, maybe the complicated feelings I had were the exact point of the play. Why was there this hesitation about the reality of the ending? Was it because I couldn’t imagine it for myself or was it something else? In a play about imagining a different future for one’s self and community why was there this discomfort? After much thinking I realized, it is difficult to imagine new realities with what you have been given. But it is not an impossible task. Taking those feelings, I began to look at the play in a different light. Two kids trying to imagine a different reality than what they were given and trying to make that imagination a reality with what they had was hard but not impossible. Anything worth trying to change will always be a challenge but it is not impossible. Why can’t marginalized people have a happy ending? It is an important piece that doesn’t always get its due respect. Understanding that I began to believe that happy endings for marginalized people was possible and something to look forward to, but more importantly something to truly work towards.

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