Catwalks, Catfights & Cosby’s

But we wouldn’t be evil step
Sisters and wicked step mothers if we
Didn’t do something Maleficent. Aw
Its payback in the Huxtable house tonight.
Rudy and Olivia had a fight.

This isn’t the first or only moment in WIG OUT! where Tarell references the hit TV sitcom The Cosby Show, which ran on NBC from 1984 until 1992. The show was a staple in African American households across America and was one of the few programs during this time to portray black characters at all, let alone a whole family who was kind, funny, functional and most importantly, extremely successful.

The lines of dialogue above are spoken by SERENA, mother of the HOUSE OF DI’ABOLIQUE and rival of REY REY, mother of the HOUSE OF LIGHT. It’s in reference to the scene below, where Rudy is in the middle of a revenge dream about her precocious niece-in-law, Olivia. There are many levels of connection between SERENA’S lines and the scene that Tarell is drawing on. He is not only pulling from the rivalry between Rudy and Olivia and their love-hate relationship, but also from the dream state that we see Rudy in (a devise that is also used in the play) as well as the trio of singing ladies who are narrating the scene very similar to how the FATES 3 guide us through WIG OUT!

While controversy swirls around Bill Cosby today, the influence of his show and the positive effect of showcasing an upper-middle-class black family on national TV is undeniable. As we get to know the characters in WIG OUT! and come to understand the concept of Chosen Family and these new dynamics and structures, we can dissect the moments and relationships that are drawn from The Cosby Show and their family unit. The complexities of choosing and being chosen, of care-taking and loving despite obstacles, trauma or past, are the foundations of Ball scene House constructions.

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