A dozen of us took ourselves to see Ain’t Too Proud, The Life and Times of The Temptations, now playing at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre in Berkeley. It was wonderful. And so was the audience, which grooved along song after song as if they remembered, as most of us did, the moment each melody first startled and swooned our hearts, all those years ago when the Temptations were the prize of Motown and King of Rhythm and Blues. There are many lessons explored in this very exciting play, chief of them that one must sing one’s own song, which black people always did in the past; that “getting to the top” (after singing something somebody else dreamed up for you) often means discovering a lot of slimy things crawling around up there. But also, in a culture where “success,” to be seen, has to be gigantic, how to cultivate enough modesty to avoid giving away one’s essence to the vapor of fame; rather than saving our best for the comfort of those who love us. American culture is hard on us all, partly because it has become primarily about what sells. This goes against the grain of any true black culture – making one wonder where Berry Gordy was raised – and it certainly isn’t anything we learned from our Indigenous ancestors, whom I must say some of us look more like every day.
I look forward to the day when Black people and our Indian relatives get a good grip. There is a love and friendship story waiting to be shared.
But anyway, thanks to playwright Dominique Morriseau and director Des McAnuff, there are layers of meaning in Ain’t Too Proud. And beyond that, and entwined with that, the most beautiful experience of soulful black men strutting their phenomenal stuff. With the occasional appearance of “sistahs” demonstrating the playful rivalry that can occur when true equality exists.
Source: Berkeley Rep, Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of the Temptations