The Chicago-born writer has teamed up with director Nadia Latif to combat the tradition of ‘endlessly complicated men and very straightforward women’ with her new play, Octagon:
...."“I am kind of obsessed with the image,” says Colón, 29, who won the 2014 National Latino Playwriting Award with this script. The throat has become the place where all her interests tangle and choke. When, for instance, she co-founded a collective in her home city of Chicago, initially to deliver gas masks to protesters in Ferguson, she called it #LetUsBreathe, echoing the last words of Eric Garner, who was choked to death last year by police in Staten Island. (Garner doesn’t get a mention in the play, though Mike Brown, Sandra Bland and Freddie Gray do.)
AdvertisementAll of these forces run through Colón’s play – the alliance of art and activism, the right to unrestrained speech, the deaths of too many black men and women – but her own voice is quiet, measured and focused. The daughter of a former Chicago alderman and an actor-turned-financial consultant, she began to slam at the age of 16 with the Young Chicago Authors group, before going on to national competitions. When she talks, her breath swallows pauses and interruptions. She can string a sentence across a dozen subclauses and a couple of minutes and show no strain.
This is fitting, because Octagon argues strongly for freedom of expression, for the power of poetry to help people imagine a better future. Presumably that is why Colón’s #LetUsBreathe collective went to Ferguson – where she says she wanted to try “to use our artistic capital and our cultural capital to amplify the stories of the people there”. How important is it to Colón that so many high-profile black activists in the US – such as those behind #BlackLivesMatter - are women? And how much difference does that make to their power to levy change?"
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Octagon is at the Arcola Theatre, London E8 from 16 September to 17 October. Box office: 020 7503 1646. arcolatheatre.com.
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