One conversation with Fanshen Cox DiGiovanni was all it took. After her Examiner interview yesterday, filled with embracing words and vibrant kindness, it was clear that a whole lot more than One Drop of Love is coming to the Phoenix Valley and gracing the Mesa Arts Center stage this weekend.
“The crowd can’t just sit back and watch. Everyone is involved in this story,” said Cox DiGiovanni of the inclusive environment the show exudes. “I’ll be playing lots of characters, sometimes coming out into the house, talking to and asking questions of the audience.”
Ben Affleck and Matt Damon are notable among the show’s past participants. As producers of Cox DiGiovanni’s One Drop of Love, a dynamic multimedia live, solo performance that explores how race has been constructed in the United States, they too were deeply affected by the message conveyed.
“These two are such stand up guys,” Cox DiGiovanni said of the Hollywood superstars. “We were young, eager actors together at Cambridge. Ben somehow got wind of it in 2013 when I was presenting the show as part of my MFA thesis. And he came to see it. …In fact, during part of the show, we travel to Cambridge.”
As the show’s writer and sole performer, Cox DiGiovanni probes her experiences of family, race, love, pain – and a path towards reconciliation. She has been quoted previously explaining how her idea originated:
“…It often frustrated me that ‘race’ was such a strong influence in my life. I wanted to explore what was behind this influence – was I making more of it than it was; or was the real issue that others needed to see how much it influences THEM?”
Though it may sound heavy, her lilting, light-hearted voice and description of humor in the show suggested otherwise. Cox DiGiovanni further explained the ultimate goal of the show is to encourage everyone to discuss ‘race’ openly and critically.
But as personal as skin color or heritage is, DiGiovanni’s sojourn–the re-enactment of it to which she invites each audience member–is even more intimate. True, the performance incorporates filmed images, photographs and animation to tell the story of how the notion of ‘race’ came to be in the U.S. On a much deeper level, however, it was designed to explore how Cox DiGiovanni’s own racial identity influences her relationship with her father – a journey that takes audiences from the 1700s to the present, to cities all over the U.S. and to West and East Africa, where both father and daughter spent time in search of their ‘racial’ roots.
But she’s careful to qualify.
“As wonderful and important as it is for us all to understand our roots,” Cox DiGiovanni cautioned, “We can NEVER EVER allow that information to influence how we treat someone else.”
With those sorts of nuggets, the interview and show could communicate so much more than a single drop of love. In keeping, the title too connotes the potential infinity of compassion and acceptance. That is, we can feed and be fed from a bottomless resource. One drop begets another until we’re all showered in the grace necessary for meaningful change, for reconciliation of self and of humanity.
And so for many, Fanshen’s love at Mesa Arts Center this Saturday could well be that all important first drop.
because art IS a BLAST
because sometimes a quick heads up makes you want to head out