We Wear The Mask

Tonight’s rehearsal conversation about reporter Tom Blackman brought to mind Paul Laurence Dunbar‘s famous poem, We Wear The Mask… which then made us think of Kehinde Wiley‘s video project called “Smile.” (We shared some other works by Wiley in a previous post.) Both pieces speak to the social masks Black men and boys are forced to carry with them, and we’re interested in how these artworks may resonate with Tom, Tramarion, Flat Joe, Coach Brackett, and characters across the world of the play. We offer a glimpse of these two artworks, below.


Smile by Kehinde Wiley

Smile is a four-channel video artwork Kehinde Wiley began while completing his MFA at Yale University in 2001. The artist revisited the project 15 years later, once again asking young men he found on the streets of New York to smile unceasingly in front of a camera for one hour. Within the video, the young men can be seen stoically submitting to discomfort and humiliation as their expressions distort under the pain and duress of the pursuit to appear happy.” — Curatorial Notes from Roberts Projects (emphasis mine) 

[0:3:15 Excerpt] Kehinde Wiley: Smile, 2016. Digital video. 90 min, color, sound.


“We Wear The Mask” by Paul Laurence Dunbar

Written 1895