Fanshen Cox DiGiovanni is the author and performer of a one-woman play entitled “One Drop of Love” which details the experiences of growing up as a biracial woman and the search of her cultural identity. The author has ties to the Boston-area having spent time in the city and with the play being produced by longtime friends Ben Affleck and Matt Damon. After viewing the play via live stream (gotta love technology!), Fanshen and I spoke about her process in writing the play and got more insight to her thoughts and feelings about identity.
Tiffany: How did you make such a sensitive issue so funny! Did you know you were funny?
Fanshen: I moved from doing dramatic theater to taking stand up classes in L.A. to challenge myself. Some of the skills I learned were to structure jokes to focus on my own personal story. I realized that my story could break the heart in a way that made people laugh and got the audience involved.
T: How did you decide to do such a personal speech and a one-woman show at that?
F: It actually started as a documentary about my family and then I was getting an MFA in acting and performance and since a documentary is a different medium, I thought about how to incorporate multi-media into the performance.
T: There are pieces in the performance that I found really powerful, especially when you were talking about ticking census boxes. How did that become a part of the play?
F: I think when you are going to see/(create) a solo performance, you should think about how you can have the audience connect – to say, “This is my story.” So, I wanted to give a context to things that made up my own story and that was a longer journey than what exists now. I needed to construct an image of race that went beyond our family.
T: You have children in your life, nieces and nephews from your brother. How do you think they and other children should racially identify if they come from bi-racial backgrounds?
F: I think it depends on how their parents choose to raise them – they are seen as a Black boy or a Black man and that’s what society says and tells him and his children. Everybody has the right to explore the way in which they define themselves. In this piece I try not to judge. I try not to come to any conclusions. I hope that you come to your own conclusions.
T: You’ve been doing the show for almost 2 years now. Does it get boring or tiring for you? What is next for you?
F: I will be doing the play for the next year, for sure. What makes the show is really the reactions from the audience and the lead up to the shows. That moment when everything goes silent right before the lights go on and after that then the show can evolve. It’s a new city, a different crowd, different reactions, so it’s always different and evolving. There are potential projects for me like finishing the documentary that I started, and I am working on a new play called “Adventures in Whiteness” which talks about how people became “white”. It will have a focus on immigration history laws and really having whites look at breaking down a system that is benefiting them.
T: On a lighter note, you spent some time living in Cambridge, what were some places that you remember visiting and enjoying?
F: Oh wow, I haven’t been in a while, but I remember The Middle East, all of Central Square. I remember that great reggae spot – The Western Front during my college summers. Boston was like the big city across the bridge! Most of my time in Boston was spent in the Symphony Hall area or Dorchester.
Experience “One Drop of Love” on Tuesday, June 13th at the Central Square Theater (450 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge) in celebration of the 50th anniversary of Loving v. Virginia. 1:00 p.m. matinee and 7:00 p.m. evening showing. Tickets are free and the performance is open to the public. RSVP here.