She is going solo with her bio.
A one-woman show portraying multiple characters is tackling the immigrant experience and domestic violence in the Caribbean community at the New Perspective Theatre in Manhattan from March 8–12. Guyanese-American actress Ingrid Griffith’s tale “Demerara Gold,” explores the different figures in her life before and after entering the United States, and the adversity she experienced as a newcomer to the country, she said.
“It’s a solo show that I had written about the immigrant experience and my true story on coming to America from the point of view of a Caribbean girl,” said Griffith.
When her parents left Guyana for the United States, Griffith and her siblings awaited for visas and did not know what they thought would take a few weeks, would turn into six years. During that period she was cared for by her grandmothers who lived by stricter rules.
“This story is about me waiting for the visa, living with my grandmothers, and surviving in their world,” she said. “But it’s also about the lifestyle — you get to see a little culture of Guyana and how we live and what our grandmothers tell us.”
In her 80-minute play, she recalls her life before leaving Guyana and growing up in Wyandanch, Long Island in the eighties. Griffith alone will individually play the role of 18 characters in her life including her parents, grandmothers, friends, and other people who were part of her childhood. There will be no intermission, but in what she calls the second half of her story, explores her reunion with her parents and adjusting to living in a predominately white suburb.
“Living in the suburbs I didn’t fit in,” she said. “No one looked like me and I stood out in school — and these were all the cultural shocks I experienced, as well as some disturbing issues that I bring up that happened in my family.”
Being exposed to domestic violence in her home forced her into a new childhood she never encountered in Guyana, and she partly believes is caused by heightened stress that immigrants experience when thrusted into a new environment, said Griffith. “That is the disturbing theme presented in story — in the Caribbean community, unfortunately, domestic violence is very common and a lot of it has to do with relocation,” said Griffith. “We’re isolated and take the frustration out on our partners, and in my case my dad was abusive.”
Griffith wrote the show three years ago to get a better grasp of her family, and to add her narrative due to the lack of Caribbean stories reflected in the media, she said. With tweaks to her original story, a different ending, “Demerara Gold” comes timely during Women’s History Month and Griffith said she hopes she can end the silence on domestic violence with her comedic, sad, and thought-provoking play.
“As a Caribbean woman our stories need to be told and heard fully,” she said. “That’s the message I want to share — and the way we do so is by speaking up about it. We need to break the silence and understand why it happens.”
Discussing domestic violence should not disinterest male audiences from the show, said Griffith, instead it is an opportunity to take accountability and look at the root of it.
“It’s not lashing out at my father or men, or Caribbean men — it’s about understanding the context and what might make someone do that. It’s about being pushed into another element and what might happen,” she said.
“Demerara Gold” at New Perspective Theatre [456 W. 37th St. between 9th and 10th avenues in Hell’s Kitchen, www.braat