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



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


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.

Author Biography

Kimberly Chantal Welch, University of Missouri-St. Louis

Kimberly Chantal Welch is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. She has a Ph.D. in Theater and Performance Studies from UCLA. With an emphasis on the African Diaspora, her research focuses on the intersections of performance, homelessness, and incarceration and the ways in which constructions of race, gender, and sexuality mediate how people navigate said sites of spatial dispossession. Her work has been featured in Theatre Journal, Theatre Survey, and Lateral, and her forthcoming publications include contributions to The Metheun Drama Handbook to Theatre and Gender as well as Cultural Dynamics.


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