How I Got Over: The Staging of Gendered Blackness and Homelessness

Kimberly Chantal Welch


In 2012, Theatre Lab collaborated with playwright Jennifer Nelson to write the play My Soul Look Back and Wonder: Life Stories from Women in Recovery, which is based on the stories of women residing at N Street Village, a recovery community that provides housing and services to homeless and low-income women in Washington, D.C. The creation of this play as well as the resulting performance at the Kennedy Center are the focus of the documentary How I Got Over (2014). The structure of the documentary paints a story of healing and recovery as the audience learns the women’s backstories, witnesses community affirmations and emotional post-production family reunions, and learns about the women’s lives since the Kennedy Center performance. How I Got Over ends with a follow up with the women participants one year after the production. Throughout the follow-up coverage, one participant is markedly absent: Cheryl K. Barnes. In this essay, I inquire into Barnes’ absence as a consequence of her being an unruly body, demonstrating how commonsensical representation of her and her fellow N Street Village residents -- as well as moments of their erasure -- highlight the limits or, at least, potential drawbacks of using historically white spaces and performance structures to illuminate Black subjectivities.


Homelessness; theatre; gender; blackness; How I Got Over; performance

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