DIANE GLANCY –
AMERICAN GYPSY - 2001
This play goes a lot farther than
what Diane Glancy says in her introduction:
Gypsy is a Native American who knows migrations and restlessness.”
In America Indians are rootless because
they have been uprooted. They have been deculturized by the genocide and the
exclusion locking them up in reservations and strangely enough it put most of
them on the roads with no roots but with bikes to perambulate aimlessly and
They have been acculturated into
Christianity and they become white, hence chickens under Jesus the chicken
herder. They did not even have to grow the feathers they were already wearing.
Then they have to live with
mortgages and banks that repossess their houses when they can’t pay putting them
back on the road. It is a constant story of migration. You marry a sailor and
you have to move to the East Coast and you’re parked in a military base.
Migrations that bring you to
places where you are tied up till you have to move again though you do not
decide. It comes to you. It’s fate.
Like Titomo killed by his own
bullet that falls back onto and into his skull punishing him for shooting in
the sky like the old western proverb says about spitting up in the air and
always getting it back on your face. Even the cemetery is not final since then
you move to the next world.
But that’s the surface. The play
is also a strong satire of the American and Christian society they have to live
in and integrate into.
The chickens (white Indians as
well as the birds you eat fried or not, southern or whatever in restaurants)
are a metaphor or are submitted to a metaphor, one way or the other. The
chickens are the white Christianized Indians and they are equated to angels,
those Christian flying winged beings who don’t wear underwear and under whose
skirts you can look between their legs. The dream of all dreams: to make love
The metaphor is developed in all
kinds of ways.
But when you add the pain of
deculturation to this artificial acculturation Indians are gypsies because the land
under their feet is pulled away, the environment is constantly changing by man’s
own doing, they are constantly on their bikes escaping some fear or menace, and
they are reaching for someone or something they can’t have. But above all they
are left in their gypsy state with their stubbornness, their determination and
their selfishness. The author only forgets their loss of their Indian reality
has made them aimless: they reach out for something that does not even exist.
Then and only then, the
conclusion is clear. The Indian chickens are like angels looking for a place to
land. But they can’t see. They speak meaningless words and they can’t hear because
their ears are stuck in their feathers as if these feathers were a biker’s cap,
these feathers they used to wear when they were still Indians. Hence their ears
are locked up in their traditions themselves locked up in the biker’s helmet
they have to wear on their gypsy bikes to more or less go around unnoticed in
that sort of conformity. And then they have visions, and we, the whites, the
Americans, the masters of this world, just as much as all Indians, should dread
these goggles that give Indians visions of another world since they are blind
to this one. They are dangerous, the goggles and the Indians who wear them. They
can bring a vengeance to the surface, or a change of fate and lot.
That’s the only touch of possible
regeneration for the chickenized Indians. When the lightning strikes, now the chicken
coop of the locked up reservation has been dismantled, Indian chicken will
rise, or at least may rise.
Dr Jacques COULARDEAU