con flama

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con flama is blues in its sensibility and base history. It is jazz in its composition, communal telling and non-linear exploration of time. Set in Los Angeles in the 1940s –1970s, con flama gives glimpse to a Black gurl’s coming of age, through Ancestral passages and her family history. The gurl’s story unfolds as she makes her way through the cultural landscape of Los Angeles on the bus.

Frontera@Hyde Park Theatre. Photo Credit: Bret Brookshire
Frontera@Hyde Park Theatre. Photo Credit: Bret Brookshire

Read Sample

my earliest memory is of my grandmother’s laughter when i was three and we lived in chicago/and i stole her beer and drank it down before my mother got across the room to take it away
georgia sweet georgia on my mind/was on the radio.
my mother was very upset but i didn’t care
cause i liked the taste of beer
and grandmother’s laughter.

grandmother smelt like sweaty stockings and day old beer. every night
i climbed into a sweet sleep encased in that smell/and grandmother’s thick
damp skin/big belly snores and covers.
i loved no one more than my grandmother.
who are our Ancestors grandmother?
i used to ask her
cause i was hoping i had more grandmothers somewhere.
she’d say

kassa shaka mutu.

my mother told me grandmother
was 15 when she picked the chicago streets over her own child
who she sent back south to the home house/so
i knew grandmother loved no one more than me cause we were in chicago
and she was there
to tuck me in at night.
i loved my grandmother
even though she made my mother cry.

who are our Ancestors grandmother?
i’d ask on rainy days or nights i wasn’t sleepy

kuta mako mo

she’d say
and i’d make believe for hours that they were visiting us.

we got evicted cause grandmother drank up three months rent money and my mother didn’t know/and that’s how we ended up in los angeles cause right when we got on the street grandmother’s sister came by on her way to los angeles and me and my mother got in the car/went with her. grandmother stayed on the street waving

bye babies
i love you.

my mother is still angry about that but i didn’t care
cause i knew grandmother would join us when the next great-aunty car came by.

four years later my mother sent me south to stay at the home house
until she finished night school i didn’t care
cause grandmother was back at the home house too and as soon as i saw her
i loved her more again. more than ever.
who are our Ancestors grandmother?
i asked
happy to hear her voice

kaba zula we
she said

you said our Ancestors were
kassa shaka mutu and kuta mako mo you never said there was a kaba zula we
this can’t be right grandmother
who are our Ancestors!

she said
shit gal
i don’t know.

that was a very unsettling moment.
didn’t she know i wondered.
why don’t i know
i wonder
i wonder
why/i am crying/i am crying now/now i cry...

Cast Requirements

3 women
2 men

Set Description

The Set

The bus. Los Angeles. 1940’s-1970’s.


Excerpts from con flama are in the following books:
Excerpts of con flama are in:

Windy City Queer, edited by Kathie Bergquist.
The University of Wisconsin Press. 2011.

New Monologues For Women By Women.
Eds. Liz Engelman & Tori Haring-Smith.
Heinemann, 2004.

Is This Forever, Or What?: Poems & Paintings From Texas.
Ed. Naomi Shihab Nye.
Greenwillow Books, 2004.


“If a flood deluged your home, it would disturb not only belongings such as clothes, papers and photographs, but also bits of personal history and memories. In some ways, Sharon Bridgforth's stream-of-memory play con flama is a result of such a wash-out - albeit better-smelling. A lyrical, emotional and humorous salvage operation, con flama uses music, movement and poetry - all echoing and refracting throughout the production - to tell a very personal story of history and survival, of good times and loss.”
—Rohan Preston, Star Tribune


Production and Development History

con flama was written with support from the National Endowment for the Arts/Theatre Communications Group Theatre Residency Program for Playwrights at Frontera @ Hyde Park Theatre.

Productions: Frontera @ Hyde Park Theatre Austin, TX (2000), Penumbra Theatre Company (2002).