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DEBBIE NORRELL

DEBBIE NORRELL

Back in the day when I was doing theatre, I was in a play called “Day of Absence,” by Douglas Turner Ward. It was produced by the Wilkinsburg Arts Theatre and is typically done with another one act play called “Happy Endings.” The play takes place on a particular day in the early 1960s, in a small Southern town that is left with only the White residents. All the Blacks have disappeared. Using caustic humor, the playwright shows all the unappreciated work that was done by “coloreds” in the town. The town’s businesses are in trouble because “the absence of handymen, porters, sweepers, stock-movers, deliverers and miscellaneous dirty-work doers is disrupting the smooth harmony of marketing!” The factories are paralyzed because “men are waiting for machines to be cleaned, floors to be swept, crates lifted, equipment delivered and bathrooms to be deodorized.” The young White mothers don’t know how to change their babies’ diapers or calm them when they cry, since all the “mammies” have disappeared. The irony of the play is that all the characters are African Americans in white face. I loved that play and my picture appeared on the cover of “In Pittsburgh,” in white face, in the August 1990 issue.

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