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, femmes, non-binary folks and any human who identifies outside the constructs of strict gender binaries and cisgender male, heteronormative standards – described by Simone de Beauvoir as “the other.” We can’t quite vocalize this truth, but we know it exists. If we, as “others,” stop to rest for even a second, we are not taken seriously, we are not considered strong/smart/qualified enough, and we lose out on opportunities 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 roughly 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 being considered “the other” by society . One of the violent, unspoken truths I address in Tight End is violence and sexual assault. Even in the 21st century, as I grew into my womanhood, I was taught important lessons on how to avoid violence simply because I am a woman. However, it is important to note that Tight End is not a play about sexual assault. Ash is a survivor, but she is also a football player, a student, a friend, and a daughter. Tight End is a play about human beings searching to be more than just a title or fit into a simplified category. The play is about living beings who dare to love, exist, explore and learn outside the boundaries their gender roles and societal standards.
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?”