The story of Tight End smashed into my mind and out of the rubble rose the character of Ashley “Ash Smash” Miller. I suddenly had this image in my head of a woman constantly in motion. She never stops moving. Ash is always pushing her body to its limits as her sweat floods the floor. I wanted to ask Ash, “Why can’t you stop?”
I realized this is the brave truth for all women that we can’t quite vocalize, but we know it exists. If we women stop to rest for even a second, we don’t get the job, we don’t get the promotion, and we lose our spot in line to our male counterparts who, at times, did not work as hard as us and got by on their mediocrity.
This kind of haunting, unspoken truth is best described by the word “mokita” in the Kivila language. Mokita translates to, “The truth we all know, but do not discuss.” All of my plays are motivated by a mokita. In Tight End, I am trying, with the help of my characters, to vocalize one of the many unspoken truths of growing up and becoming a woman. One of the violent, unspoken truths of womanhood I address in Tight End is sexual assault. Even in the 21st century, as a woman grows into her womanhood, she is taught important lessons on how to avoid this violence. Everything from her dress to her curfew is crucial to her survival. It was important to me while writing Tight End to not let the sexual assault be the focus of the play. Instead, I wanted to create a character who is a survivor and breaks out of the constructs of her gender.
Sports have always been a fixture in my life. My parents were athletes, either playing in high school and college or just in their free-time at the local park. ESPN constantly buzzes in the background of my family’s home. I cannot remember one car ride with my father where I am not listening to the radio comment on the Chicago Bears defense, the Blackhawks most recent trade deal, or the Cubs World Series chances. Sports culture is as familiar as my childhood home. Sports culture interests me for its immersive dynamics where, in order to participate, you must adopt a collective mindset. You are no longer an individual, you are apart of a group, and you must do what is best for your team. The team must always come first. How does this effect a person’s identity both on and off the field or court?
This identity question becomes more prevalent when we begin discussing gender. Sports is a heavily male dominated arena. It does not take a degree to notice that male sports team get far more coverage and airtime than their female counterparts. While there is the WNBA, WPS, and NPF, what about the female athletes who dare to call football their dream? Football, a sport that forces bodies against bodies and whose own mokita is to cause enough pain to your opponent so you may dominant them. And, yes, there is the WFA, but, let’s face it, it’s not quite the NFL. In Tight End, I ask the questions, “What would a female athlete have to do to prove she belongs on a male dominated field?” “What if the female athlete completely embraced the culture of the team comes first mentality, but it was her male opponents who continued to view her as just a girl?” “Does being perceived as a girl make it too dangerous?” “Why does it take so much strength to be a woman?” “What ‘is’ a woman?” “At what point should she stop?” “How do you push away from your opponents’ perceptions and define yourself?”