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  • My's Silent ScreamMemory, Traumatic Time, and the Embodiment of the Black Surreal in Rickerby Hinds's Dreamscape
  • Stephanie Leigh Batiste (bio)

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Ever had one of those dreams where nothing comes out when you [try to] scream

–Rickerby Hinds, Dreamscape 2011, 56

Through fictive reimagination, Rickerby Hinds's hip -hop play Dreamscape: A Play Based on True Events retells the 1998 police shooting of Tyisha Miller, a 19-year-old black woman from Rubidoux, California. She was slumped over in a locked vehicle with a flat tire near a Riverside gas station, shaking and foaming at the mouth with a semiautomatic pistol in her lap (66DZ, 2012). Far from simply documenting this historical horror, Rickerby Hinds creates from these details a contemplation of life, the promise of violence, the ubiquity of death via the story of "Myeisha Mills," a young woman who survives nine gunshots wounds before a final three kill her. Myeisha wakes up into a living nightmare as she faces death at the beginning of the [End Page 117]

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Dreamscape title.

play. Dreamscape's artistry folds the tragic details of this historical event over into their symbolic weight, juxtaposing the ordinary against the extraordinary. Hinds takes artistic license with the event that had been covered tenaciously for months and years by Riverside's Black Voice News. Together they bear witness to this murder and excoriate of police aggression. Dreamscape draws upon this sustained social address by amplifying the moment of violence enacted by a single bullet, the temporal insistence in their repetition, and the long process of reminding and remembering sustained by the Black Voice News's journalistic witness. In a process of remembering and honoring Tyisha Miller's experience, Dreamscape emphasizes the possibility of violence as a real and abstract presence, examining its unspeakable impact on our sense of community, selfhood, and the future. These impacts are unquantifiable. They insist on a forward push in their inescapable determination of what remains to occur, to become. In Dreamscape, violence and its impacts are deeply embedded in a heightened presentness that stops time in a moment of desecration and destruction. Myeisha's silent scream resonates as the central [End Page 118] symbolic gesture of this experience. The play's primary metaphor for the traumatic conundrum of horrific experience and the deferral of its acceptance is Myeisha's unmade, unheard scream. Hinds reports that the rhythm of the line is painfully intentional: "Ever had one of those dreams/Where nothing comes out when you [try to] scream" (Hinds 2011, 56). "(Frightened.)" Myeisha tries to scream (Hinds 2011, 56).1 The word "nothing" precedes "scream," the emptiness enveloping sound. Actress Rhaechyl Walker opens her mouth breathlessly pushing out the sound to no avail. Immediate, horrible, wrenching, and huge yet never meeting, with sound never reaching intended ears. The traumatic event occurs, its impact continuous, its resolution deferred. The urgency increases toward the end of the couplet. Both syncopated, the first line starts with an elision—"have you" is unspoken, a silent beat of its double time opening; second line rhymes in an eight count against the first line's lingering four, accelerating toward its end with the additional syllables folded into the eight. The rush contrasts its hope and urgency against the impending wailing silence, an urgent crisis that opens time. She repeats "(Commanding herself:)/Scream/Scream!" verbally scratching the declaration in a repetition of the word and emphasizing its emptiness by contrast (Hinds 2011, 56). The dream, like time, in the setting's immanent turning of the New Year and the new millennium becomes a space of failed/possibility. In the space of death, Myeisha sees her life again, recounting from afar in the unreality of the dream, from the nonspace of the surreal. The surreal in black life encompasses both the familiar notion of the surrealist dream of the marvelous, the flow of imagination toward an alternative reality, as well as the unfathomable nightmare encountered in a hyperreality...


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