Illuminating the Themes in King Liz

For more from dramaturg Travis Amiel, see here!

The quotes below serve to illuminate themes in King Liz such as racial oppression, sexism, spirituality, and the act of finding purpose or meaning in life. People such as Angela Davis and James Baldwin are figures in the fight against discrimination that has been a part of this country since the first acts of colonialism in it hundreds of years ago. Liz is just one woman overcoming whatever obstacle is in her way, similarly to the experiences of actual sports agent Lindsay Kagawa Colas, who is quoted below. Playwright Fernanda Coppel’s Freddie is a young Black man raised in a country that promises success in exchange for hard work; however, commitment does not always yield prosperity. All of the characters face the question of what his or her legacy shall be. A couple of the voices shared below remind us what can come from a fixation on dreams, particularly the American fixation on being number one at all costs.
Production Dramaturg Travis Amiel

“We have inherited a fear of memories of slavery. It is as if to remember and acknowledge slavery would amount to our being consumed by it. As a matter of fact, in the popular black imagination, it is easier for us to construct ourselves as children of Africa, as the sons and daughters of kings and queens, and thereby ignore the Middle Passage and centuries of enforced servitude in the Americas. Although some of us might indeed be the descendants of African royalty, most of us are probably descendants of their subjects, the daughters and sons of African peasants or workers. Naturally, people would rather imagine themselves the progeny of nobility than the offspring of servants.”
— Angela Davis, Activist and Author (Black Genius: African American Solutions to African American Problems)

“Like so many other women, en route to success I get called ‘pushy’ and ‘bossy’ and a ‘pain in the a**’ while my male peers are celebrated for being ‘results-oriented’ and ‘hard nosed.’ It’s an unfair burden for all of us, but it’s something that as a woman you have to simultaneously acknowledge, fight and embrace. In negotiations, we must be extra prepared, we must have a thick skin and a sense of humor, we must be able to clearly communicate and support our position and in finding success, we have the obligation to empower others. That’s when we are all at our best. None of us got where we are alone and real progress requires that we advocate for each other (and teach young women that ‘bossy’ is a compliment).”
— Lindsay Kagawa Colas, Sports Agent (Sports Agent Blog)

“If you desire something, then you are attached to it. If you reject it, you are just as attached to it. Being attached to a thing means that it becomes a hindrance in your mind.”
— Seung Sahn, Zen Buddhist Teacher (Dropping Ashes on the Buddha)

“The frame of abstract liberalism involves using ideas associated with political liberalism (e.g. ‘equal opportunity,’ the idea that force should not be used to achieve social policy) and economic liberalism (e.g., choice, individualism) in an abstract manner to explain racial matters.”
— Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, Political Sociologist (Racism without Racists)

“Well, I know this, anyone’s who’s tried to live knows this. That what you say about somebody else, anybody else, reveals you. What I think of you as being, is dictated by my own necessities, my own psychology, my own fears and desires. I’m not describing you when I talk about you, I’m describing me. Now, here in this country, we’ve got something called a nigger…We have invented the nigger. I didn’t invent him. White people invented him. I’ve always known, I had to know by the time I was 17 years old, what you were describing was not me, and what you were afraid of was not me. It has to be else, you had invented it so it had to be something you were afraid of, you invested me with it.”
— James Baldwin, Author and Social Critic (Take This Hammer)

“We think that the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.”
— Pema Chödrön, American Tibetan Buddhist and Author (When Things Fall Apart)

King Liz premiered in 2015 and takes place in our America, where one might observe a reckoning with a complex history in which many have profited off the lives of people of color, silenced and diminished the work of women, and concentrated wealth at the expense of the impoverished. Such sociopolitical issues as institutional racism and sexism are central to Fernanda Coppel’s script. As in the play, one can see that such tensions in our political landscape today are confusing and uncomfortable for many. Millions of people around the world have protested in the streets, called their representatives, posted on social media, and looked for a way to make a difference with respect to the issues at the heart of King Liz. Below are four resources for understanding, empowerment, and action in today’s social justice movement:

Syllabus for White People to Educate Themselves

Resistance Toolkit



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