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In a Smoke-filled Room, Color Matters unfolds in a sewing room somewhere in the south. Azalea Lee Smith remembers her life as a child growing up in the early 1900s on a tobacco farm. She moves through different historical intervals to bring the audience to the time of the play, the 1970s.
A light-skinned African American grandmother, In A Smoke Filled Room tells the story of her abandonment in the 1940s by her dark-skinned husband. She explores her struggle thereafter to negotiate her identity as a single-mother of two children in her color-conscious southern community that valued light-skin and denigrated those African Americans of the darker hue. Now a grandmother and a seamstress by trade, Azalea Lee is part of an extended family in the 1970s.
Azalea Lee longs for listeners since her story has been folded carefully and fiercely guarded in her bosom of memory. Her memories have been clouded by the noxious smoke of southern rule that dictated whatever grieved a lady the onus was on her to bear up under the grief no matter if she was coming apart at the seams. In other words, a lady never divulged her personal business. In A Smoke-filled Room exposes the repercussions of this Southern dictate; specifically, it uncovers the emotional, physical, and psychological affects of Azalea Lee’s 40-year silence. This silence has held her hostage in her son’s home and prevented her from living life more fully. By telling her story, she releases the smoke of color-consciousness that has filled her interior rooms of love, joy, hope, and, most important, self-forgiveness.
Written and performed by Kwakiutl Dreher.
Directed by Christopher Maly.