interview: Taji Senior
Taji Senior wowed Austin audiences last summer with her performance of ‘A’ (What the Black Girl Found While Searching for God), a piece inspired by George Bernard Shaw’s “The Adventures of the Black Girl in Her Search For God.” We caught up with Senior, now a graduate student at UCLA, to learn more about the piece and its inspiration. We feature here two excerpts from ‘A’ and a short interview with Senior about the work.
How did the idea for this play first come to you?
I’d been ruminating on the idea of self-creation and whether or not people get the choice to actively and consciously decide for themselves who they are, or if we’re all just the cumulative result of choices and decisions made for us long before we got here. In the midst of that, I stumbled on Shaw’s short story and was really intrigued by the main character’s interrogation of God, theology, and self.
I’m not familiar with the story that you based the piece on. Can you tell us a little about it?
In Shaw’s story a white, Christian missionary goes to Africa to proselytize the people there. However, a black girl in the village where the missionary is working begins to develop questions about God and religion that the missionary cannot answer. The black girl (which is the actual name of the character) goes into the jungle to find God for herself and along the way finds different iterations of God and central religious figures.
Does the character find God, in the book or in your play? What does this mean to you?
In Shaw’s story, she eventually marries and has her children and only returns to her contemplation of God after her children are gone and have the left the house. In my piece, the character discovers that she is the God she has been searching for. For me, the idea of God is just as intimate and personal as it is vast and all-encompassing. What I mean is that I believe in our ways we are all God and the universe, spirituality, etc. works and moves through us individually and collectively.
‘A’ (What the Black Girl Found While Searching for God) was performed here at the Ground Floor Theatre in Austin. Are there any plans for additional performances?
I am currently pursuing an MFA in acting at UCLA and will perform the piece as a staged reading this spring as part of the university’s Fowler Out Loud Series. I’d love to perform it in the future, but we’ll see.
What have you been working on since? What can we hope to see you in next?
Right now I’m in school, and so that’s my primary focus, but I am researching and developing a piece that I hope explores the ways in which blackness compounds the complexities of desirability. I also recently had the sincere honor of filming some short films that are part of Meow Wolf’s House of Eternal Return exhibit in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Interview by Sean Redmond.
Photography by Jen Lee Rachid.