Vesuvius Exploding

Mount Vesuvius, the Italian volcano formed by the collision of the African and Eurasian tectonic plates, is invoked by both Michael and Christine as a powerful metaphor. Often, in myth and art, Vesuvius stands in for sudden, unexpected, and violent explosions. It’s the volcano that erupted in Ancient Rome and buried the city of Pompeii and all its inhabitants, with barely a warning. When it last erupted in the 1940s, it spewed ash to such an extent that the gas and ash cloud covered the whole of southern Europe. It’s considered one of the world’s most dangerous volcanoes, and the force of its eruptions has been estimated to release a hundred thousand times the thermal energy of WWII’s Hiroshima-Nagasaki bombings.

The two Vesuvius references in the play are as follows. Both instances connect to Black children, and in particular Black boys, being silenced …then finding their voices.

Michael, in the scene “Toussaint is a Whisper”:

Whatever your head filled up with was meant to be spat back out.
While you sat in your space at that desk.
A lot of the time.
In third grade.
Ms. Watson.
Third grade.
My head just got too full.
Too much would come spilling.
Oh my God it would come spilling out.
Vesuvius.
Sparks, sparks, sparks.
But Ms. Watson.
Was having none of it.
I was sent to the Principal.
The nurse.
The counselor.

“An eruption of Vesuvius seen from Portici” by Joseph Wright of Derby, c. 1774

Christine, in the scene “Athena/Reel 3”:

Okay, okay, okay.
You know what it is.
You know what it is.
You want to know what it is.
I do believe in volcanoes.
I do believe in Vesuvius.
You know what I do not believe in?
Soccer.
Basketball.
Motherfucking football.
If one more person brings a uniform around my kid I swear to God.
You know what it is.
That is not I want.

“The Eruption of Vesuvius” by Sebastian Pether, 1825

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