May I introduce: The Dirndl Diaspora!
After instigating some polka at Oaktoberfest last year, my eyes were drawn to the brilliant riots of color at the multiple African fabric pop-ups. What do they have to do with Germany? I wondered. All I had to do was imagine…
The Dimond district, where I live, is a historic German neighborhood, where beer flowed from three separate gardens and the old folks retired to the Altenheim. Beer flows everywhere again, once a year at Oaktoberfest, but there’s not enough combat polka or fashion parades for my taste. As I wandered around in my pink Dirndl handing out funny German words, I noticed a lot of African fabric stalls. The smell of pot in the air around cannabis booths. The sounds of hiphop and bluegrass from the stages around all the usual community tables. And this sort of strange wariness that sometimes happens at white people festivals in a diverse town.
I thought, why not make a dirndl out of Kente cloth? But the dress designer looked at me like I was crazy when I suggested it. But why not? Why shouldn’t a dirndl mashup proudly state the blending of cultures? It’s not cultural appropriation for the generations of Americans whose ancestors intermarried. Think of all those love stories that created Afro-Germans, Indo-Germans, Sino-Germans, and the rest!
I wanted there to be a dress shop called “The Dirndl Diaspora.” So I made it up. I filled the store with interesting clients and beautiful costumes that all told stories. Unfortunately, the proprietress, who brings gemeinschaft to the community, is facing a rocketing rent, and the oppressive culture of gesellschaft. I filled the dialogue with memories of my family, fascinating stories I’ve collected or found in my research, and thoughts that are plaguing me as Nazis raise their ugly heads again. Come and meet Julie and Anna the opposite cousins, Mackenzie in her tartan plaid dirndl, Katrina Himmelstein the heavy metal singer (Geräuschemacher), and Savannah James, the elegant creative at the center of it all. Learn lots of new German words and insults. And be inspired and informed by the magical things that happen when women drink beer together!
“It is a masterful presentation of the way mixtures of cultures happen, especially the German/Black ones, and also of some of the fun we have with the cultural hoo and hah in Oakland.” —Judith Offer, playwright
Would you like to join me for a table read at this year’s Oaktoberfest? (5 actors and a narrator (me), sitting around a table, drinking beer and reading the script. People gathered around, RAPT with attention!) I’m lining up non-actors to try the material out, see how it sounds, and get some feedback. Then maybe next year we’ll see if it grows into something the community can get into. Email me and let me know you want to come (or read!) – and I’ll get back to you with details.