Lisa Alexander as Maasai Angel PHOTO: John Oluwole ADEkoje, ILLUSTRATION: Cagen Luse
This week, Company One Theater (C1) debuts its first in-person production since 2020, Inda Craig-Galván”Black Super Hero Magic Mama», directed by Monica White Ndounou. Produced in collaboration with the American Repertory Theatre, the Boston Public Library and the Boston Comics in Color Festival, the show explores what happens when grief doesn’t follow its societal script.
When black mother Sabrina Jackson’s son is killed by a white police officer, she retreats to the world of superheroes and comic books she loved with her child. In this imagined space, she is able to control her own narrative in ways that her grief and the expectations of the society around her will not allow her in the real world.
Craig-Galván was inspired to write this show after watching black mothers give press conferences and lead prayers following the murders of their children due to police violence. “I had a son who was two years older than Tamir Rice when that boy was killed. And my first thought was that I couldn’t do what his mother was doing,” she says. “It’s unfair that black mothers are expected to put off their grief for the sake of others when the worst wrongs have been done to them.”
She began to wonder, what if a mother couldn’t present herself as she wishes? In what other ways could this grief manifest itself? Craig-Galván explores these heavy themes with a balance between humor and lightness.
The first draft of “Black Super Hero Magic Mama” was written in 2016. Since then, and particularly due to the increase in police violence in recent years, Craig-Galván has made changes to the script to reflect our current moment. She tweaked the play’s humor so as not to overwhelm anyone dealing with these real-time experiences, and she updated the dialogue to reflect new information. In one scene, Sabrina reads a Harry Potter book to her son, and the dialogue now reflects the author’s problematic political statements.
“A play is always a living, breathing thing. It can always be modified, adapted and advised,” says Craig-Galván. “It’s important for me in this play to let her grow and breathe and for Sabrina and all the characters to change as things change in the world.”
“Black Super Hero Magic Mama” will take place at Rabb Hall at the Central Boston Public Library in Copley Square from April 22 through May 21. Tickets are chargeable for all participants. Along with production, the “Branch Out With C1” series will host programs around Boston with community partners facilitating conversations about the play and the real-life events that inspired it and focusing resources for healing and coping.
“No one should be thrown away; everyone should be embraced, especially the marginalized child who is often overlooked and the mother who is given unrealistic expectations,” says Craig-Galván. “We are responsible for each other.”