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Nicole Lawwson’s “(un)Civilized Nation Part 1: Dirty Laundry” Paints a Conflicted Picture of Systemic Racism

There is something inherently eerie about watching a show during a pandemic. A fear, the twinkling of an idea, or the end of an era of things. Surely, how can theater continue in this manner? However, Nicole Lawson’s (un)Civilized Nation Part 1: Dirty Laundry captures the themes of oppression and death that hang on the peripheral of consciousness.

(un)Civilized Nation Part 1: Dirty Laundry feels like a psychic review of what may be going on in many Americans’ heads, households, and communities following the death of George Floyd. Poignantly done, Lawson reflects on power, status, and systemic racism from a white female perspective. During the first part of the play, the characters, all women, are introduced to the audience through carefully crafted boxes, artistically arranged across the screen. A disturbing representation of hierarchical intersectionality, each box separates each character by her own archetypal experience within society. For example, the top box shows a Caucasian woman, who is able to move through space but also held within the context of the power structures of a patriarchal society. Stunning and powerful, Lawson’s choreography purposefully evokes a sense of control as the Caucasian woman hovers over the boxes of two women of color. Though all three women are each moving through space differently, they are also connected through a collective struggle as they attempt to break free from systems of control.

Exposing, haunting, and brave, Lawson is impeccable in her storytelling through movement. She allows the audience to feel her pain and confusion on a visceral level, and then re-directs the piece into a directive for activism.

Very well-orchestrated, (un)Civilized Nation Part 1: Dirty Laundry, left me conflicted. On the one hand, I wanted more. On the other, I felt disappointed that the two characters of color were not given an opportunity to share their perspectives.  Perhaps, there will be a sequel to this piece, which will explore the systemic oppression of the two BIPOC characters. It also would have been helpful if the BIPOC performers involved in this work were credited, as the Women’s Theatre Festival feed only listed Lawson’s name, which, unfortunately, just leans into the one-note perspective of the white woman’s narrative at a time when Black and brown voices are already marginalized.

Nicole Lawson’s (un)Civilized Nation Part:1 Dirty Laundry was selected to be part of the Women’s Theatre Festival’s Fringe lineup last month. Next up for WTF is The 19th Amendment Project’s production of “She Drove Me to Town Hall When I Turned 18 so I Could Register to Vote.” For more information on The 19th Amendment Project, visit: https://burningcoal.org/the-nineteenth-amendment-project/#more-9577. For more information on Nicole Lawson visit https://www.nicoledance.net/.

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