POST: 'Head of Passes' - how do you tell your family?

What's it about?

Head of Passes is an intense play surrounding a woman named Shelah. Shelah is on the verge of dying. With her birthday coming at twelve midnight, her family throws her a surprise birthday party. At the party, she figures it is the best time to tell them, since they are already together in one room. 

What'd Jazmin experience?

This play spoke life into me. It was the perfect trail mix of disaster and faith that I needed to hear at that moment.

It opened up on Shelah, who was clearly a wise faith-based woman. She was like one of those old grandmas at a Baptist church. It was her birthday and she forgot, so her family was going to throw a surprise party. Little did she know how many surprises she would get. The first surprise started with the rain leaking into her house. It was almost as if she was drowning in her problems. As if Shelah was the house and her problems were finally getting to her.

Everyone gathering together for Shelah's birthday seemed like a convoluted family reunion. It was awkward because the son was almost working as a servant, showing the distance in their relationship. There was a point when the father got drunk and became friendly with his son but his son did not accept it because it wasn't something he was familiar with. It reminded me of my relationship with my mom at times. My mom and I could be a bit distant but instead of alcohol acting as a catalyst for friendship, it was church. I felt the son’s pain when he voiced his opinion of his father’s lack of love.

Things only got more awkward as more people came into the house. Spencer came into the house making his presence loudly felt. I loved him, he was my cousin. Loud, caring, and always telling jokes.

Now Shelah had something to tell her family so as each person walked in the door, she kept trying to gather the strength to tell her family that she was dying. On her birthday, she wanted to break the news! It's crazy how sometimes the worst news comes at the best times. I remember finding out my parents were dying on a plane ride to Las Vegas. I locked myself in the airplane bathroom for three hours until we landed. I wasn't even told by my parents but by my sister.

I have to say I saw my mother in Shelah. My mother never told me she was dying, the same way Shelah never told her family and I think I understand that struggle now. How DO you tell your family you’re going to leave them? 

Cookie finally stopped by for the birthday party. She was a little antsy. I'd rather go with something under me. I literally said "oooo." That was powerful. She was molested by her own father, God I couldn't imagine. I have a family member who was molested by her grandfather and his friends and now sex and guys are a really big thing in her life - so it makes sense the lifestyle Cookie lives. She lets men mistreat her and stays in toxic relationships because she has only experienced toxins all her life.

Honestly, for me the deaths were a little far fetched. Aubrey got stabbed. Cookie overdosed. Simone wrecked his car. It was all a little bit too much to believe. But I guess that is how life goes. I thought back to a situation where I had to explain why I didn't turn in my essay. There were so many reasons, but they all made it seem like a tall tale - but it was my life. My life feels like a movie every day.  I can definitely relate. The loss of the loved ones in the story are the losing of mine. I have five close family members battling life threatening diseases. Five. With the blow of every person who died all the same day, after all leaving her house when she wanted them to stay. Damn, I can't say I can imagine.

I walked out thankful. Thankful for the air in my lungs. The warm blood in my body. Thankful to be alive and living. Everyone has an addiction. I get a fix off of productivity. Theatre is home for me.  I returned a miss call from my boyfriend while walking to the train,  "Why you sound so happy?" "Nah, the play just really made me appreciate life.”


Want to see it?

$20 General Rush

Head of Passes
Public Theater
thru Apr. 24