Taper Cypher

Eye-Opening Play Exploring How Black Hair Affects Being Women Performed In Baltimore

Keli Goff’s series of vignettes, currently on display in a Baltimore theater, feature Black women recounting how their hair affected their school lives, relationships or careers. New York Times author Maya Phillips recounted the one-of-a-kind performance in a review, originally titled “Review: Review: In ‘Crowns, Kinks and Curls,’ Getting to the Roots of Black Hair,” and shared below.

In a somber scene, Stori Ayers unwraps and unpins her hair in silence. (Credit: Diggle/Baltimore Center Stage)

I have 4b hair that remained virgin hair, mostly styled in box braids and cornrows with extensions, until I was 13, when I got my first relaxer. My scalp has known chemical burns, hot comb burns, curling iron burns, flat iron burns and the unrelenting throbbing that comes with hours of tight root-wrenching braiding. I got my big chop at 21 and have been natural — years of T.W.A.s and twist-outs and wash ‘n’ go’s — ever since.

Do you get what I’m saying, or am I speaking another language?

I’ve written about my hair before, and every time I do I’m well aware of the vocabulary, which I’m sure is unfamiliar to many non-Black readers. Though it’s not just a matter of terms or phrases: Black women often encounter unprovoked opinions and wrong assumptions from employers, strangers — even family and friends — about what their hairstyle says about their professionalism, their social status or their relationship to Blackness.

The personal, cultural and political implications of Black hair are at the root of the well-meaning but less than inspired “The Glorious World of Crowns, Kinks and Curls.” (And yes, pun definitely intended.)

Written by Keli Goff and produced by and filmed at Baltimore Center Stage, “Crowns, Kinks and Curls” is a series of vignettes, each one featuring a Black woman recounting how her hair affected her school life, relationships or career. The piece channels the spirit of Ntozake Shange’s “For Colored Girls,” though the writing, albeit earnest, is far less poetic.

The actresses Stori Ayers, Awa Sal Secka and Shayna Small embody all of the fictional women, donning different do’s to do so. (Nikiya Mathis handled the eclectic mix of hair and wig designs.) Most of the scenes are monologues, though occasionally two or three women meet, say, in the office of a mostly white law firm, where an older straight-haired lawyer named Sharon (Ayers) berates a younger one, Ally (Sal Secka), for wearing her hair in braids: “I’m sorry, I can’t let you meet a major client looking like this.”

Read the rest of this captivating review here.

Awa Sal Secka in “The Glorious World of Crowns, Kinks and Curls” at Baltimore Center Stage (Credit: Diggle/Baltimore Center Stage)

Vanessa Roberson

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