Breath, Boom by Kia Corthron

SUNY Purchase, White Plains, NY 2012

Charese Scott-Cooper as Angel, Aissatu Young as Malika and Michelle Quintero Williams as Prix.

I heard one of the first readings of Breath, Boom at the Public Theatre several years ago; I was immediately struck by the force of Kia’s writing.  I also remember thinking that no one would ever let a white girl who directs Shakespeare touch this material.  But last year, Greg Taylor and Lori Weksenblatt from SUNY Purchase came to see my production of Superior Donuts at Sing Sing Correctional Facility.  I was thrilled to direct Kia Corthron’s Breath, Boom at SUNY Purchase in Fall 2012.

Director’s Notes

Girls with uncertain prospects join gangs and become involved in the life of the street when they cannot see their way to any other kind of life, when gang-banging looks more like friendship, security and respect than any other experience they have at home, in school, or out in the world.  Breath, Boom explores the rich, grim complexity of girls on the razor blade’s edge of poverty and lost opportunity.  Prix and her sistas represent just some of the painful lives and tough choices of young women in cities all over this country.  Those young women are not two-dimensional punch lines, reducible to a crude lyric in a rap song or an edgy joke.

Prix’s world is encased in violence that is verbal, physical, sexual, emotional and frequently mortal.  The depth of her own anger, sorrow, grief and emotional dislocation is plumbed through the sounds of domestic warfare behind her bedroom wall, the reverberations of drive-by gun shots and the anguished cries of those who ultimately become her victims.  In fireworks, she discovers a place where the relentless noise of her world is temporarily silenced by the reports of beautiful explosions designed only to entertain and enrapture.  “You ever see the Fourth, East River?  Everybody’s happy, everybody, no anger! No anger!”

Deprived of trust and the oxygen of human interaction, kindness, for too long, Prix is unwilling and probably unable to access her own humanity until time and chance finally, brutally force her hand.

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You lie, in faith, for you are called plain Kate,
And bonny Kate, and sometimes Kate the curst;
But Kate, the prettiest Kate in Christendom,
Kate of Kate Hall, my super-dainty Kate,
For dainties are all Kates, and therefore, Kate,
Take this of me, Kate of my consolation…
--The Taming of the Shrew, Act II, scene i