About two months ago, I received an e-mail request for an interview from Lana Garland, a video producer who was making a documentary about an artistic theatrical performance, The Clothesline Muse, that acknowledges the importance of life around the ‘clothesline’ for black washerwomen who took in laundry from white families to earn a living. They gathered to hang washed laundry to dry on outdoor communal clotheslines. The performance with a cast of 6 dancers, a percussionist, and singer Nnenna Freelon as “The Muse”would include dance, live music, spoken word, interview text, video and interactive art.
I was surprised and a bit puzzled by the request since I really knew nothing about black washerwomen. I thanked Lana for the invitation but respectfully declined. However, she reassured me that having read my two books dealing with life in Chinese laundries she was confident that I could provide useful input as her film would not deal exclusively with black washerwomen, but include aspects of the lives of other people washing clothes as a livelihood. The interviewer would be acclaimed jazz singer, Nneena Frelon, the musical creative force behind The Clothesline Muse.
Since they were coming all the way from Durham, North Carolina to my California home for the interview, I realized that this intriguing opportunity was a ‘big deal’ but I was still a bit overwhelmed on the day of the interview. Before Lana and Nneena arrived, an entourage, or film crew, of 4 or was it 5, men came an hour early to set up the camera and lighting equipment, rearrange the furniture, and determine the best recording arrangements.
The interview went smoothly even though the whole affair took about 3 hours! Nnenna was a gracious and skilled interviewer and the production crew highly professional. I’m glad I was invited to participate and can’t wait to see the film. The Clothesline Muse is scheduled to open in Spring of 2014.