This article from The Cut is first class bonkers, and worth a full read. The picture it paints of battles between factions of the 1% — over the traditions and future of a beloved, private, neighborhood nursery school for the rich and powerful — is unreal. That school is not Gleason Street, but there are resonances here of the power struggles, the privilege, and the dreams parents cultivate for their children.
“Then there was the board. Once [School Director] Morgano realized it was an advisory committee, and therefore not really the boss of her, she displayed significantly less patience with the members, especially Ashley Phyfe, the new board president, a blonde stay-at-home mom who, according to Morgano, thought she knew everything about education because she’d taught public school for five minutes (It was actually seven years.) The board was well-meaning but, Morgano thought, clueless, as evidenced by what happened with the Diversity Committee, which was formed in 2017, after a request from a parent of the only child of color in her class. After the school rejected a motion to give up legacy spots to allow more diverse children into the school, they’d been spinning their wheels and coming up with piecemeal suggestions like busing children to Grace Church from other neighborhoods. ‘That sounds like more of an idea that would benefit your kids,’ Morgano snapped, and the silence afterward was deafening.“
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.
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.