La Négrophile

Written by Zakiya Iman Markland, directed by Tatiana Pandiani, stage managed & lighting designed by Mariana Vallejo

A Note from the Playwright:

This piece is for the universal black girl who society has taught to un-love aspects of herself— to un-love, question, or curse the various ways her black beauty is expressed —and who has not yet been given space nor time to deal with the layers of that trauma.

In a very racialized 1910s America, young Josephine Baker is both lauded and taunted for the brown hues of her skin. Internalized racism displayed by blacks around her (people of her own race) had young Josephine on the outskirts of stardom on Black Broadway despite being incredibly talented. Never light enough to pass the quintessential “paperbag” test (a test used by African Americans at this time to test the lightness of one’s skin/how much white or mixed-blood one possessed), she left the United States and found stardom in the land-of-the free Paris, France, where racism was…well, different than in the States. There she became an instant success: a symbol of French liberation from Western austerity; an icon of the erotic; France’s “Black Venus.” But what happens to the soul when objectification and fetishization is the price you pay for fame…for freedom?

Shuttling 40+ years in time, La Négrophilie takes you on the twisty ride of young Josephine’s rise to international stardom, all the while leaving behind a trail of questions about the good, bad, and ugly of oppressive love.