This one-act monologue, "A Good Neighbor," by playwright Kelley Girod invites the audience into a space of candid self-reflection in response to the injunction to love one's neighbor as one's self from Leviticus 19:18.
Listen to the audio performance above and read the script here.
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18 Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself: I am the Lord.
As I worked on my piece in response to this bible passage, I thought a lot about not only what it means to love your neighbor, but also how do you recognize who your neighbor is. Having grown up in the deep south as a woman of color, I became used to "self segregation" which I feel is still perpetuated in our society — perhaps even more so now as stereotypes of the "other" are pushed onto us by the media and fear impedes our ability to get to know each other on a meaningful level.
It is easy to love someone who we recognize as our neighbor: someone who looks, thinks, and acts in a manner similar to ours, someone we can relate to and understand. But what about those people who we don't really see as equal to us, or who we see as 'foreign' to us? To take this a step further, I wanted to examine the subtle ways in which we may still treat others as less than our neighbor, even when there is an outward, actionable attempt to do something kind for someone else. To me, the perfect setting to examine this passage is in our present day climate of navigating race relations including micro-aggressions, generational gaps, and deep seated prejudices.
How do we live together when our behavior towards each other is directly linked to a country's dark and complicated history? How do those of us who are "privileged" recognize that privilege, and then use it for good? And, ultimately, how do we begin to make a real effort to meet each other in the middle in order to make things better for everyone?
Through the journey of exploring, and responding to this passage I discovered that the simplest, but most difficult answer to these questions is that the work has to start within us as individuals in order to truly love our neighbors as ourselves.
Kelley Nicole Girod is the founder and Executive Producing Director of OBIE Award winning, The Fire This Time Festival (NYC). She is a 2008 graduate of Columbia's MFA playwriting program where she was a Stein and Liberace Fellow, as well as a John Golden Fellow. She was named Nytheatre.com Person of the Year for her work on The Fire This Time Festival, and is a part of the Indie Theatre Hall of Fame. As a producer her credits include Israela Margalit's Get Me A Guy, and Night Blooming Jasmine (both at Horse Trade Theater); Louisiana Mon Amour (Women Center Stage at Culture Project); Thais Francis's Outcry (Horse Trade Theater, Jack). As a playwright, her plays include This Stretch of Montpelier, Ambrosia, Poetics of the Creative Process, Parabolas, Rote, Straight on til Morning, and Lessons of the Trash Gang. She is currently Programming Associate at The Sheen Center for Thought and Culture in NYC, where she helped to found and produces The Catholic Theatre Festival. She is most proud of being a wife, and mother to two beautiful daughters, Penelope Evelyn and Noelle Anamaria.