Guest Blog: Road to Opening AIN'T THAT RICH
By Kate Robards
My play Ain't That Rich, a true story of the complex relationship I have with money, runs at The Marsh San Francisco October 20 though December 2. To give you some context for this show, I grew up in a small town on the Texas-Louisiana border, the sixth generation in my family to grow up there. Where I'm from, the rich people in town own a funeral home and a fence company. Most people who leave either have parents who pay for them to go to college or they join the military.
My dad left, and then died, when I was a kid, and my mom raised two children on a meager salary. My town had the, "it takes a village to raise a child," mentality, and people there made allowances for certain bad behaviors I displayed when I was young. We had help from family and neighbors.
I eventually worked my way through a small state college near my hometown, and while my mother would've loved to help me, she just couldn't. She makes about 25k a year and she's lucky to have her job. The American struggle of living paycheck to paycheck is real. But I by no means have ever been "poor." My mom would distinguish, "Poor? No. Broke, yes. Poor says more than, 'I don't have money.' It implies you're poor of spirit. Well, we have spirit to spare and the ability to make more money come next paycheck."
As I recount in my play Ain't That Rich, I met and married a man who was on the opposite end of the financial spectrum. Having money changed me and my ideas of self. Suddenly things I always wanted were available without the struggle. I found myself in a loving relationship with someone who was stable and able to provide for me with ease for the first time in my life. I had access to healthcare and education without a struggle. Plus, I had loving in-laws and the nuclear family I'd longed for.
Ain't That Rich might seem like a Cinderella story of poor-girl-marries-rich, but it's not about my relationship with my husband, it's about my relationship with money. With that comes looking at themes like cultural capital. I always had a library card growing up, and you don't have to come from a well-to-do family to have one of those. I also walk through this world as a blonde, white woman who has all her teeth, so there's a certain cache and ease that comes with that as well. But when I was growing up, I always wanted to hide the fact I was broke. Once I married into a family that was on the opposite monetary spectrum from mine, I noticed people treating me nicer. I wanted to scream: "I'M NOT WHO YOU THINK I AM! I'M NOT THE PRIVILEGED PERSON YOU THINK!" I also realized I became privileged in ways that have nothing to do with money.
It's been a career goal of mine to get a run at The Marsh, which is coming true as Ain't That Rich launches its seven week run. I have been seeing shows there since I first moved to San Francisco almost five years ago. Entering a dark, simple space and listening to intimate stories is magical. I developed this show with David Ford, The Marsh Artist in Residence. He taught me how to examine my inner self through performance. The deeper I examine the self, the more I learn that it is examining humanity.
The Marsh offers a place where a writer can have stories portrayed through skill and craft. I auditioned my first solo show at The Marsh a few years ago, and it wasn't ready for a full run. That didn't stop me from digging deeper and continuing to write. When I auditioned this show at The Marsh as part of their Rising Talent series, The Marsh Artistic Director Stephanie Weisman told me after the performance that she sees a growth in me as a performer and a writer. That's all that I can hope for. Working with her team has helped me improve and develop Ain't That Rich.
They believe in me as an artist and are producing my first professional run. Because of The Marsh team, I can continue to perform and write new stories. The country and world might seem divided right now, but when you listen to other people, you realize humans are more alike than different. Stories are the place where we discover our oneness. That's what I've found at The Marsh, and that's what I'm hoping to bring to audiences during my run of Ain't That Rich.For more information about Ain't That Rich at The Marsh San Francisco, please visit themarsh.org.
Photo: Kate Robards performs Ain't That Rich, her solo show that explores what money can and cannot buy, October 20 - December 2, 2017 at The Marsh San Francisco.
Photo credit: Rex Lott