A youth play about dating violence, commissioned by the Kitchen Theatre Company.

production history

February 2002 Ithaca, NY

Kitchen Theatre Company

related article

Youthful playwright speaks with authority on mixed-race identity

by Stephen Landesman, Ithaca Journal Staff


ITHACA - When Lenelle Moise talks, you really listen. It's hard not to since the Haitian-American playwright speaks just as eloquently with here arms, hands and eyes as she does in a voice that resonates with experience beyond her 22 years.

She also talks about herself with absolute candor. "I was born in Haiti, but my family came to this country when I was 3, and I grew up in a housing  project, " said Moise, seated in the Mural Room of the Clinton Hopuse."I started writing poetry for my grandfather at 5, but when I was in the seventh grade I really wanted to be a rapper.  Stuff like 'AIDS...is..coming at you!"


Instead, as a teen-ager in a Haitian enclave of Cambridge, Mass., Moise devoted her considerable energy to such things as creating a drama curriculum for the Cambridge Schools Sisters Group, a tuition-free program for underprivileged girls from various ethnic backgrounds living in Cambridge.


Or working as a program assistant for the Institute on the Arts & Civic Dialogue, a three-year summer project in Cambridge.  Or serving as liaison between tenants and administration for the Cambridge Housing Authority.


Or writing three plays and self-publishing a book of poetry.


Or winning the Ithaca Grand Poetry Slam two years ago.


Dressed with simple elegance that only experienced models or very rich women have learned to cultivate, its hard to believe that Moise is just a graduating senior at Ithaca College. Even her dreadlocks are swept back in a handsome ponytail more debonair than Rastafarian.


"As a hyphenated woman, I've always been interested in people who are in the middle, people who are walking a fine line," said Moise. Hence her latest endeavor, Purple, a play about a biracial 15-year-old girl named Lena struggling to fit into a small community much like Ithaca.  Funded in part by a grant from the Saltonstall Foundation for the Arts, Purple was commissioned by The Kitchen Theatre for its "Saturday Morning Live, a series of plays aimed at young people and teens.


The play's title is soon self-explanatory at several levels. Purple, a combination of red and blue, is also the color of Lena's biracial boyfriend, Jonah, turns when he becomes angry.


"It started as a writing assignment in a fiction course. We had to pick a color and write about it, " said Moise. "As I began to write, this voice of a biracial girl just evolved."


“The play is in part about what it means to have a body of color," said Moise.