"Walk Like A Man": The African American Lesbian Experience
Theater Rhinoceros From Walk Like a Man: (L to R) Desiree Rogers, Daile Mitchum, Alexaendrai Bond, Knechi Emeruwa
May 28 will see the Bay Area premiere of "Walk Like a Man," Laurinda D. Brown's look at the African American lesbian experience. The play comes to the San Francisco stage courtesy of Theatre Rhinoceros, the City's venerable LGBT theater company.
Rhino publicity describes the play as "sex with an attitude for women of all ages and ethnicities." The playwright tells her stories through spoken word, comedic scenes and dramatic monologues which spotlight the issues of the African American lesbian community.
The author is a 2006 Lambda Literary Award winner for Best Lesbian Erotica. She chatted with SF Weekly about herself and of course, about "Walk Like a Man."
SF Weekly: Can you tell those just discovering your work who you are?
Laurinda L. Brown: I am Laurinda D. Brown Johnson. I married a beautiful woman named Dedra back in 2011, and we hyphenated our names. Since each of us had careers where our names are our brand we agreed to use them solely for those purposes.
While my coming out story is depicted in my novel Fire and Brimstone, I can tell you that the worst part of it was dealing with Laurinda. The story might read something like this: Girl meets boy. Boy falls in love with girl all the while, however girl dreams about girls. Boy gets girl pregnant. Girl is still dreaming about girls. Girl meets girl. Girl leaves boy. Girl's sister asks if girl is dyking. Girl just smiles.
I had days where I couldn't face myself in the mirror, but after I completed the book, I realized acceptance has to come from me and no one else.
SF Weekly: Were you supported by friends and family?
Brown: My family picked up on it and asked what the deal was. I didn't deny it. Most of my friends supported it. I wasn't seeking anyone's approval because it was my life. There was no big announcement or anything. I had a female roommate, but there were only two bedrooms and my children occupied one of them. My friends at the time were astute enough to get the picture.
SF Weekly: It's been said that women and African Americans are treated as second class within the LGBT sphere. Have you experienced this?
Brown: I have observed such situations and concur about that theory. However, I don't get up in the morning with those kinds of things on my mind. I never have. I know that I am an African American woman with children. My focus has always been on them and how they perceive me and what I do.
I have always been well respected within the community and my experiences have been consistent with the territory.
SF Weekly: Can you describe your feelings at winning the Lambda Literary Award?
Brown: I was overwhelmed and deeply humbled. To be honored by my peers in the LGBT community meant the world to me. It was at that moment I realized that my writing had a purpose.
Theater Rhinoceros Laurinda D. Brown
SF Weekly: Do you do activism:
Brown: I might frustrate a person or two with this response, but I don't do bumper stickers, parades or T shirts. The only rainbow flag I own is sewn on one side of a quilt I bought many years ago.
SF Weekly: Can you inspire what audiences might expect from "Walk Like A Man" and what inspired you to write it?
Brown: "Walk Like A Man" has over 15 potential scenes. I am not sure exactly which ones will be presented during the performances. You will laugh, cry, and be quite upset in a few places. I want the audience to be enlightened, and in some places, empowered.
I wrote the play based on experiences or situations that I or others had been in. I watch people with my ears!
I believe the play has great appeal beyond the African American community. "Walk Like A Man" is about life, not lifestyles.
Theatre Rhinoceros' production of "Walk Like A Man" will perform at The Costume Shop (1117 Market), on Wed-Sat at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. from May 28-June 15.