Olivier Award-winning playwright and activist Katori Hall — who also wrote the book for the Broadway musical Tina — discusses her new Starz show P-Valley on the latest installment of Rolling Stone’s “The Breakdown.”
The Memphis native could not wait to depict Southern strip-club culture: “I think a lot of people don’t realize that Southern strip-club culture is very common and part of your coming-of-age experience. I would go into those spaces and see some of the most enthralling acrobatic feats I had ever seen in my life.”
As Hall interviewed more than 40 strippers as part of her research for the play Pussy Valley, the source material for the television adaptation, she realized that dancing was a way of survival for a lot of the women. “A lot of people don’t have a lot of choices. What I learned is that sometimes that profession would choose them,” adding, “This show was just an attempt to humanize these women that I knew were amazing athletes.”
She teamed up with Jucee Froot, a fellow Memphis native, to create the theme song for the show. Experimenting with the rhythm and cadence of Southern hand-clap games, the lyrics highlight the exploitative-meets-empowering nature of dancing in clubs.
Speaking to the difficulties of portraying this duality, Hall commented, “Unfortunately, black folks have inherited this huge box of stereotypical images. As a black content creator, there is this burden placed upon you — people demand that you create black people in the most perfect light. I say to that, you are actually denying a group of people of their humanity if you are demanding that they be perfect all the time.”
She continued, “There’s this unfortunate idea that black women are superwomen. We grow up knowing that people don’t see our pain — the fact that Breonna Taylor’s killers are still walking free. What I hope this show does for us is that people will see that they’re human and that they’re deserving of protection because they are worthy.”
P-Valley is available now on Starz.