The Hand That Feeds You will run from November 2-5.
This semester, Black Theatre Ensemble presents The Hand That Feeds You. Co-written and co-directed by Mackenzie Foy (COL ‘19) and Kendell Long (COL ‘19), the play is set in the fictional Daniels University, a school with “never-ceasing racial tensions,” and follows two activists, Nate and Angie. The two meet after a protest and develop a deep friendship, each influencing the other’s work. As time passes however, Angie and Nate’s visions conflict as they grow into their careers and eventually grow apart. According to Long, the play “tracks how [Nate and Angie’s relationship] changes as their relation to power changes.”
The major source of tension in The Hand That Feeds You comes from how Nate and Angie develop different methodologies to achieve their respective goals, which raises the question of whether a person’s core values can change over time. Says Long, “I would say that fundamentally, that the intrinsic values that folks have would be the same throughout time and I feel like that can manifest in different ways.” Nate, for example, starts off as an undergraduate activist who becomes a well-respected professor throughout the course of the play. Though his values do not change, his methods transform.
Foy, however, offers a different point of view, namely that Nate and Angie’s ability to profoundly influence each other in college is directly linked to the fact that they are in a period of their lives when they accept change. As they grow up, however, they stop opening themselves up to change. Says Foy, “I think that there’s space in the world and in people to change your values and your value system, and I think college is a particularly fluid time for people in that regard. But I think you make yourself open to change at certain parts in your life... I think the play is really touching on that, like the idea that ‘this is a time where I’m changing and I’m open to change and this is a time where I’m not.’”
For those worried about a romance between Nate and Angie, Foy is quick to clarify that the relationship between the two characters is purely platonic, saying, “I think on friendship, there’s a lot to be said, with regards to the play but also literally in general. I don’t know that people really talk about friendship, in fact I believe that they don’t often... why it’s important, how it changes you, that’s how you become a changed person.” The friendship between the two characters is powerful even without a romantic element, and Foy believes that there is no romantic tone between them.
The Hand That Feeds You is the first major work for Foy and Long. The pair began creating stories together one night last summer, though Foy notes that their writing “wasn’t very intentional until the end.” According to Long, “We’re both big fans of Lion King: The Musical and so we spent one night in Mackenzie’s apartment making this spin-off for this play that was vaguely inspired by The Lion King. We were just sitting there for the night just hashing out for over like five hours at a kitchen table.” Although the pair enjoyed writing their Lion King-inspired play, the two decided to write a more serious work, tossing around ideas for a courtroom drama before finally deciding to set the play on a college campus. Foy and Long pitched The Hand That Feeds You as a workshop for BTE, who decided to perform it for the fall semester.
Both Foy and Long respect the contributions of BTE and are very vocal in their support for the group, both generally and in the context of The Hand That Feeds You. The two also stress the importance of representation in theater. Long pointed out, “In general, people of color aren’t represented in theater when it’s not a play that’s specifically about that specific demographic.” With The Hand That Feeds You, the two hope to highlight the talents of other people of color in Georgetown’s theater community.
The Hand That Feeds You will run from Nov. 2-5 in the Village C Theater. Tickets are $5. For more information on the show, as well as the fall schedule for the Department of Performing Arts, make sure to check out the website at performingarts.georgetown.edu.