You are visitor number: 1107

Love it when folks drop in...

Welcome to the site! You are here because you are interested in the comic actor Jennifer Lanier or you took a wrong turn on your way to reading about Jennifer Lopez or Bob Lanier.

Now that you are here, check out the site. Later there will be information about booking our hero for stand up sets, emcee action, or for one of her solo comedy full length shows.

Jennifer Lanier is a classically trained big brown lesbian actor who stumbled into an improvisation class and was changed forever. After having the opportunity to work with Robert Moyer and Paul Sills, original directors of Second City, Jennifer started creating solo projects that leaned heavily on the funny. One result, NONE OF THE ABOVE, is an award-winning show that has been seen all over the US and Canada. She is currently acting and doing stand up comedy in the Pacific Northwest where she lives with her wife, two sons, dog, 2 cats, & an anorexic tortoise.

Slavery on My Mind 

Every day, Facebook asks the same question: “what’s on your mind?” 

Cat videos. 

I share them. Not afraid to admit it. 

Union struggles. 

I share them. Not afraid to say it. 

My friend’s shows. 

I share them. Obviously. 

I read through the posts about folx being slaves to their budgets, slaves to their diets, slaves to their schedules. They call themselves slaves. 

Slavery.  

Slavery is on my mind.  

It’s been exactly 400 years since the first slaves were brought to North America.  

August 1619 

Since the beginning of justifying our inferiority  

With quack science and skewed Bible verses. 

“The more you know.” 

Slavery is on my mind.  

The institution that shaped the economy of this country,  

shaped the social stratification of this country,  

shaped how we treat workers. Corporations, take note. 

Slavery is on my mind. 

When I started rehearing the play, REDWOOD, I read the script over and over, and it made me think about my ancestors and wonder who was that first woman who was kidnapped and brought here and had children? I don’t know her name. How did she deal with that and which of her children were sold and was she ever happy? 

Slavery is on my mind. 

For those of you keeping score at home 

Another entry to the list of “white privilege”is the privilege to forget about slavery. 

The privilege to ignore slavery 

“That’s way in the past, that doesn’t affect me. Or you.” 

My father was born in 1922. My grandfather in 1880. My great grandfather 1845, about. 

My great grandparents were slaves. Let that drop in, friends. 

My father—his parents, my grandparents—their parents were slaves in North Carolina. 

Actual slaves. 

I have walked on the ground of the tobacco farm where they lived. 

Where they were owned. 

Where they worked without pay 

Without choice. 

Slavery is on my mind. 

I wonder if my great grandmother was raped by the men who owned her. 

By the men who had complete control over her body.  

I wonder if her mother was. 

Some of you are uncomfortable right now. 

Some of you have already mentally checked out and are wondering who is next. 

Some of you are forming arguments in your head against everything I am saying. 

Some of you are thinking, “that’s kinda sick, fixating on the rapes of her ancestors.” 

Fight or flight has taken over. 

I don’t fixate. I have mirrors. And whenever I look in a mirror, I can’t  

NOT SEE IT.  

You and you and you can decide not to think about slavery. My light brown skin eviscerates that privilege. 

You and you and you can decide to ignore how slavery made the US a serious economic power. 

My light brown skin is a testament to the horrors experienced by my grandmothers that made this economic super power possible.  Can’t take flight from that.  

You and you and you can silently sit in your privilege and think “they get all the scholarships, they get all the preference in hiring, they get all the diversity casting calls.” 

I am the living breathing proof of those everyday crimes that built your family’s wealth and kept mine from building any. 

Slavery is my DNA. 

Since I can’t take flight, I fight. By writing. By acting. By being. By answering Facebook’s nagging question. 

“What’s on your mind?” 

My white allies: what would change if slavery was on your mind?

Othello & Me 

Friends, we interrupt this scroll-a-thon to talk about racism. If you are white and fragile, read this knowing you may recognize yourself. It’s about 3 minutes long. Get a cup of tea. Deep breath. Ready? Okay.  

I played Othello this past summer. For those not familiar with the play, Shakespeare wrote about a black man in a white world who becomes a general because of his outstanding abilities. Then he promotes a white friend, Cassio, and marries a much younger white woman, Desdemona. This angers his white sargeant, Iago, because Iago wanted the promotion & the white woman and he decides to destroy Othello. Turns out that this is really easy: all Iago has to do is make Othello question himself & his worth and the tragedy all falls into place.  

Now, I have been playing Othello as a woman so lesbian Othello has one more barrier to break down for our sophisticated audiences in Portland. But playing Othello, standing before the very white senate (the audience), having to prove to them how Desdemona could possibly be in love with the likes of me without some sort of witchcraft or drugs, saying those words each performance, hurts my actual heart. The stakes are high in the play and Shakespeare has Othello tell an extraordinary life story that ends with:

She lov’d me for the dangers I had past, 
And I lov’d her, that she did pitty them. 
This onely is the witch-craft I have us'd. 

Each performance, listening to the wonderful actors playing Iago as they convince me that my brand new wife is cheating on me (because, of course she is!) with the younger white man in front of her (because of course she is!), rips my heart out in context and also after the curtain as I think about how often in the past, my own friends have done the same thing and sometimes it was true. 

In the text of the play, after Othello has honor-killed Desdemona only to discover that these tales of her infidelity were all lies, I speak Shakespeare’s words of horror & grief & beg: 

When you shall these unluckie deeds relate, 
Speake of me, as I am. Nothing extenuate, 
 Nor set downe ought in malice. 
 Then must you speake, 
Of one that lov’d not wisely, but too well 

Then, as is done in Shakespeare, I stab myself. I, the actor, cry & die inside, lying on the ground, feeling the pain of the realization that I just made the white people’s fears all come true. 

The story is a tragedy and it moves audiences as tragedies do. Then they go home. My personal tragedy is I live Othello’s struggle everyday as a butch woman of color. I mean, I’m not gonna stab myself over this, y’all. But there are white people in this town who think I was hired as an Artistic Director of the Shakespeare company I work with because that company wants better optics so they put a black lesbian up there as window dressing. Those people don’t pay attention to my undergraduate degree, my conservatory degree, my 40+ years as a professional actor and my 25+ years as a writer and acting teacher. They just see a lesbian of color jumping ahead of them in line. When I  passionately disagree with a white woman colleague’s opinion on a black actor’s work in a specifically black role, she doesn’t see a fellow professional speaking to her in artistic disagreement. She sees a big black dyke attacking her. When I demand wheelchair accessibility with a theatre organization and a white woman calls me a bully and a white man explains elementary ADA rules to me, they don’t see a knowledgeable person using her able-bodied voice to fight for social justice. They see my brown skin and immediately assume I can’t possibly know as much as they do. These are not evil people. These are not cross-burning people. These are everyday white people whose racism, heterosexism, and sexism is showing in their words and actions. 

If I did any of the aforementioned things as a white man, I wouldn’t be telling this story because there would be no story to tell. Those white people would just  assume my knowledge, my skills & my qualifications and go on with their day. But my big black lesbian self does these things and they become acts of a loud-mouthed, disrespectful, uppity bitch and that is all. The argument and its soundness falls away; only the feared image remains. 

Y’all, Jackie Robinson’s action was not to courageously break the color bar: he just played outstanding baseball while black. “Breaking the color bar” was placed upon his action of playing outstanding baseball by the racism of the time. Playing Othello has been an artistic reminder that no matter how talented, how skilled, how knowledgeable or how qualified I am in any given situation, white people will always see my blackness, my queerness, my womanness (in that order) before and often exclusive to any other aspect of my being. They will always first assume my inferiority in whatever the subject of the moment is unless they consciously open their vision. This is reality. The daily questioning of me and my worth is de rigueur in 2018 in Portland Oregon. 

Ally friends, your job is to notice when that happens (first in yourselves, then in others) and call it out for us. Especially when we are not in the room. This is a very helpful “do” in answer to “what can I do.” One day, it will not be necessary, even in the whitest city in America. But for now, it is. This has been a public service announcement. We now return to cute kitty pics and holiday fun.

Join our mailing list for the latest!

This will make it possible for you to receive information about upcoming shows, video releases, and other appearances. We promise not to bombard you every day!

Nov15

REDWOOD

 —  —

Portland Center Stage at the Armory , 128 NW Eleventh Avenue, Portland, OR 97209

NO MONDAY SHOWS! https://www.pcs.org/redwood

A World Premiere!

A BEAUTIFUL, HUMOR-FILLED EXCAVATION OF OUR SHARED HISTORY.

When a hip hop lovin' uncle obsessed with Ancestry.com starts digging into the past, an interracial couple finds that they have a lot more (and a lot less) in common than they thought. Filled with comedy, wit, and dance, this singular American story is about learning to live and love in a present that's overpopulated with ghosts.

Nov16

REDWOOD

 —  —

Portland Center Stage at the Armory , 128 NW Eleventh Avenue, Portland, OR 97209

NO MONDAY SHOWS! https://www.pcs.org/redwood

A World Premiere!

A BEAUTIFUL, HUMOR-FILLED EXCAVATION OF OUR SHARED HISTORY.

When a hip hop lovin' uncle obsessed with Ancestry.com starts digging into the past, an interracial couple finds that they have a lot more (and a lot less) in common than they thought. Filled with comedy, wit, and dance, this singular American story is about learning to live and love in a present that's overpopulated with ghosts.